Recently Unblocked in China…

It seems yesterday’s dispatch of sites being spontaneously unblocked was part of a larger move. Today, Hu Jintao held a rare pow-wow of media outlets in the wake of Internet restrictions being eased. From the WSJ:

The 66-year-old Mr. Hu’s appearance before foreign reporters Friday was a rare move into the public spotlight for a leader who has long shunned it. Mr. Hu has never given a news conference in China or abroad.

From the BBC:

Hosting the Games showed China’s desire for peaceful global ties, he said.

His comments came amid apparent concessions by Beijing in a row over internet access for journalists.

More sites which had been blocked in Olympic media centres – such as that of rights group Amnesty International – were accessible on Friday, journalists said.

Here’s a rather representative list of sites that are now available in China, which include newspaper, magazine and NGO web sites previously hard blocked. This is taken from some that were sent on a recent Great Firewall list, and some I’ve added.

This is actually quite remarkable for folks living in China. The “Big Three” NGOs that have been unrelenting critics of China have been reliably blocked for years. YZZK (Yazhou Zhoukan) and Apple Daily both in Hong Kong, have done some of the most critical journalism regarding China.
RSF, acknowledging the good news, doesn’t take much time to celebrate and continues to push hard.

“This partial lifting of censorship shows that the Chinese government is not completely insensitive to pressure. If the entire world had been pressuring China since 2001, even before these games were assigned to Beijing, the situation might have been different today. And perhaps imprisoned journalists would have been freed before the opening ceremony.

Let’s be clear though: these unblocked sites are still subject to the sophisticated keyword blocking system of the GFW, which looks at both URLs and the body of web sites. The sites above are no longer blocked, as a rule, but the content on the site might still trigger a block. On the plus side, it seems the keyword filtering of the GFW seems to be less sensitive than normal, but the big taboo subjects are still blocked quickly.

NBC Nightly News did a piece on the blocking yesterday (July 31). I was amused when Danwei‘s Jeremy Goldkorn was on camera demonstrating how to use a virtual private network and noted that living with the net nanny wasn’t that big a deal.

Goldkorn: “I don’t see that it’s really going to impede anybody’s work.”
NBC: “Do you think the foreign media is just whining a little bit?”
Goldkorn: “Yeah. Absolutely they’re whining.”

I suppose one could make the argument that leaving the restricted GFW “harmonized” Internet as-is would have given foreign journalists a real taste of what China’s Internet users deal with every day. Now, they get a freed-up, “special” Internet to do their job and this issue goes away for the next three weeks. The question is, after the party’s over, will any of the sites above stay unblocked.

18 thoughts on “Recently Unblocked in China…

  1. Pingback: The Wikipedia Blog » Blog Archive » Wikipedia unblocked in China!

  2. Pingback: China Journal : Best of the China Blogs: August 4

  3. See, I think the more we crow about VPNs making everything available, the larger invitation we are sending Net Nanny and her coven of witches to shut that particular gate in the GFW.

    Or am I just being paranoid?

  4. Pingback: The Wikipedia Blog » Blog Archive » What’s really going on in China

  5. Andrew,

    Very interesting.

    You confirmed what I had suspected about the so-called coming down of the Great Firewall.

    In fact, as you suggest, many of the sites remain partially unavailable.

    I hope someone does an analysis so we can see what is really opened up.

    Tom

  6. David,

    As I understand it, it would be impossible to block off all VPN services, although individual services could be blocked.

    So W*t*p*a, which has been widely written about and which advertises on Shanghaiist.com, may well be blocked, despite the fact that you need a foreign credit card to pat for the service.

    But there are a bunch of other providers… If you have Amex or Visa, there’s nothing to worry about.

    Let’s hope I don’t have to eat my words.

  7. The VPN hole has been there forever and there is no way that this is going to get blocked without every foreign company in China screaming.

    My guess is that things will remain relatively open until after the Olympics when things will get blocked again after the cameras leave.

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  10. Dear Mr. Lih

    Good day!

    Im Francis Christian Lubag, a research associate from China Business Philippines magazine. We are currently working on an article regarding internet censorship in China.

    Upon looking for data on the sites recently unblocked by the government for the Olympics, I found that your list is the most comprehensive one (to date, at least).

    With this, I’d like to ask for permission if we can use the list of unblocked sites that you’ve published for our news article. Please expect that you will be cited as the source of that information.

    Please e-mail me at f.lubag@fairnewsmedia.com or at f.lubag@gmail.com. Thank you very much and Im looking forward to your positive response.

    Francis Christian Lubag
    research associate
    0906-481-8499
    f.lubag@gmail.com
    f.lubag@fairnewsmedia.com

    http://chinabusinessphilippines.com/

  11. Andrew:

    Thank you for your report. Does any ever gather ip or network information about the GFW? Is there any place to look for this kind of technical spec (can be used for ip scanning, etc)? You can reply to my email. Thanks!

    dvnbalck@yahoo.com

  12. Pingback: More internet freedom in China, for how long? « Undercurrent

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