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LA Times Blog

Websites China is still blocking: Help build the list

August 4, 2008, LA Times Blog

Last week when the Olympic press center opened in Beijing, media members were outraged to discover that many sites were blocked, despite promises from both the International Olympics Committee and the Chinese organizers themselves that press freedom would be unencumbered.

Then, in an apparent shift, China unblocked a number of high-profile sites, including, apparently, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Radio Free Asia, Reuters and the BBC's China pages. Andrew Lih has a list of previously banned sites now accessible in Beijing.

Now that some sites have been unblocked, the press looks to be moving on. "Hu stands by Games pledges, web curbs lifted," says this Reuters piece. The BBC reports that "China lifts more internet curbs" ("A spokesperson for the IOC told the BBC that the issue had now been resolved. 'The media are now able to access sites to do their job,' the official said."). And the WSJ's headline was "China Takes a More Open Stance With Foreign Press."

But here's my question: Just because a few of the most contentious sites were unblocked, has this situation really disappearred? Many sites are still censored, both within Beijing and throughout China, including some that are by no means small potatoes.

The Web monitoring service WebSitePulse has a tool that allows users anywhere to detect which sites within China are blocked and which aren't. The tool matches perfectly with reports I've read about which sites are blocked and which are available. A few of the sites that come up blocked:
Typepad blogs: one of the world's largest blogging platforms -- this includes most of our L.A. Times blogs (this blog, e.g., appears not to be accessible in China)

- LiveJournal: among the largest personal blogging sites
- Wikipedia.com: parts of the world's largest encyclopedia, including the Falun Gong page, are blocked
- Technorati.com -- premier U.S. blog tracking service
- Huffington Post: U.S. politics and opinion
- Tibet-related sites: www.tibet.net, www.dalailama.com
- Radio Canada International
- Dozens of other sites listed on this Wikipedia page

One note: There's a logical leap here. Until I get confirmation from someone inside the Olympics press center, I won't know for sure if all the sites still blocked in Beijing by China's Netcom ISP are also blocked in the press center. But we know that many of the sites that were unblocked in the press center were unblocked at the same time in Beijing and other cities.

If you know of any others that come up blocked, please leave them in the comments.

Once again, you can find the Great Firewall tool here.