Melon Farmers Original Version

Internet Blocking in Olympic China

Chinese Olympics herald a lull in internet censorship

31st July

Update: IOC Stuck on the Blocks...

Olympic officials brushed off as China continues to block the internet

A deal with Beijing has allowed the Chinese authorities to continue to block internet sites, the International Olympic Committee has disclosed.

Journalists at the main media centre in Beijing found that the BBC Chinese language site was inaccessible, as were the websites of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Reporters without Borders — whose welcome page at present shows the five Olympic rings replaced with interlocking handcuffs. The US broadcaster Radio Free Asia and the German radio station Deutsche Welle are also out of bounds.

Kevan Gosper, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) press commission, confirmed that some of its officials had agreed to Chinese demands that sensitive sites be blocked on the ground that they were not related to the Olympics.

Chinese organisers said that the censorship would not hamper journalists in their job of reporting on the Games. Sun Weide, a Bocog official, said that the plan had always been to provide “sufficient” internet access for foreign reporters. Sites run by the Falun Gong religious sect remain inaccessible, as do most sites with the word Tibet in their internet address.

The revelation that China's censors had never considered relaxing internet curbs further tarnishes the image of the Games amid persistent fears of pollution and security so tight that cafés are not allowed to place tables on pavements and hotels cannot change their brand of shower gel without checks.


30th July

Home Advantage...

China undisputed champions of the Olympic sport of internet blocking

Sohoxiaobao, not the prettiest but definitely one of the earlier blog service providers in China, has been out of operation for a week now.

Based on article from

Journalists working from the Olympics press centre in Beijing are unable to access, the Amnesty International website, the organisation claimed today.

A number of other websites are also reported to have been blocked, they claimed.

It comes as Amnesty International prepares to launch a new report evaluating the Chinese authorities' human rights performance in the run-up to the Olympics.

It is embarrassing to the International Olympic Committee, who had highlighted the loosening of restrictions on foreign media in China as an example of an improvement in human rights brought about by the hosting of the Olympics.

Earlier this month Jaques Rogge, the IOC President, had claimed that there will be no censorship on the internet.

Based on article from

Competitors staying in the Beijing Olympics athletes village will be able to purchase a wide variety of soft pornography - but websites such as the BBC Chinese news page are still banned.

When Beijing won the right to hold the Games, officials had to promise that journalists would be allowed the same freedom to report as in previous host cities.

There have been repeated cases of journalists detained or otherwise stopped from reporting while covering Olympic and political issues in recent weeks. Officials had to apologise after a Hong Kong photographer was detained for six hours after scuffling with police while trying to film fights among those queuing for the last Olympic tickets on Friday.


China will tighten its control over the Internet as the Olympic Games approach by ordering Chinese Web sites to censor certain content, Interfax sources with several online community and blogging platforms said this week.

We received notices from the Public Security Bureau and the Propaganda Department this week, asking us to closely watch for 'unhealthy' information. We have added many key words into our supervision system to watch for such information, said a source who works for an online community platform under a state-owned newspaper.

In the past, we generally watched for posts that contain Party leaders' names, pornography or violent content. Starting this week, more words have become sensitive, the source said.

The source said that some posts containing sensitive key words will be deleted. The key words include Olympic-related themes, names of Chinese nationalities or ethnic groups and comments about terrorism.

When contacted by Interfax, several other sources working for online communities and blogs in Beijing and Shanghai confirmed that Internet censorship has tightened due to the Olympic Games., a Guangzhou-based online community, went so far as to announce on July 3 that it will forbid users from discussing any political news during the Olympics. A section of the forum called News from around China will be closed from July 3 until the end of the Olympics.

Thanks to Nick
From Art Knowledge News

As the Chinese government attempts to control the country's image during this summer's Olympics games, censors have forced two art galleries to delay the openings of their shows, Bloomberg reports. Galleri Faurschou postponed a show of work by Andy Warhol of Olympic athletes that was set to open this weekend, because censors felt it was inappropriate to exhibit foreign artwork during China's biggest public event. Xin Beijing Art Gallery canceled a show of oil paintings by Ma Baozhong, because censors did not like his depictions of the Dalai Lama and former president Jiang Zemin.

This week, Dongcheng district council put up posters telling residents of the city to avoid picking their noses or sitting with their legs apart in public. The posters also warned residents not to ask foreigners about their salaries, love lives, or health.

Galleri Faurschou is now hoping to open the Warhol show on August 7, after enlisting the help of the Royal Danish Embassy to convince censors to rethink their decision. Xin Beijing may postpone its show until as late as October or November, apparently giving the artist time to enhance the details in a couple of his larger paintings, according to gallery director Li Feng.


13th July

Update: German TV blocked from Great Wall...

German journalists call on China honour its Olympic promises

Germany's journalist union and the German chapter of Reporters Without Borders have called on China to stick to its own rules regarding press freedom during the Olympic Games, which are due to open in Beijing next month.

The head of the German Union of Journalists (DJV), Michael Konken said that Chinese officials should grant journalists free access to cover the games.

We call on the Chinese authorities to honor the rules for foreign journalists in China, he said, referring to directives issued by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in December 2006 that were meant to make it easier for reporters to work in the country during the Olympics.

The directives call for journalists to only need to get the permission of organizations or individuals they want to interview, but not state authorities. Konken said that officials had begun to prohibit interviews or threaten Chinese interview partners.

Konken welcomed an official Chinese apology for a botched live broadcast of German public broadcaster ZDF from the Great Wall. Officials had blocked the broadcast by holding their hands in front of the cameras.


6th July

 Offsite: Olympic Sport of Heavyweight Gagging...

Not looking good for the internet at the Olympics

See article from


22nd June

Update: Olympic Firewall of China...

No let up in Chinas blocking of the internet

China has only continued to tighten censorship of the Internet as the Olympics draw near, not loosen up as expected.

That's the conclusion of activists who monitor the state of censorship in China. They say that a number of China-related that events, such as the unrest in Tibet and the recent earthquakes, have caused authorities to clamp down even further on what can be published online within the country, and what information can be accessed by citizens.

My observation is that during this year the Internet police became much more efficient in terms of surveillance of the Internet activities to suppress freedom of expression, Independent Chinese PEN Centre member Zhang Yu said: The suppression is getting much more severe, just in the recent months.

Journalist arrests and convictions may have gone down since 2004 but it's not because there's more freedom in China, Zhang said. Instead, China is cracking down on the use of Internet cafes for subversive purposes by requiring customers to show ID, for example. After signing up with an ID and possibly even having a photo taken, users will be able to log in with their unique ID numbers, which will allow the cafes to keep track of exactly who is using which machine at all times. From there, if the government identifies the IP address of an unruly user on the 'Net, it should easily be able to identify the user in question.

Zhang's observations come just over a month after China admitted that it doesn't plan to fully open the Internet during this summer's Olympic Games as was previously expected. The government said that it would attempt to offer as much access as possible to international journalists and bloggers (as dictated by the host city agreement signed with the International Olympic Committee), but that there was no way China would turn off the Great Firewall entirely.

Update: Said the Small Censor to the Big Censor

23rd June 2008

It is unacceptable for China to block Internet content, a European Commissioner has said calling the Internet a free and open medium.

We say for instance to the Chinese, very clearly so, that their blocking of certain Internet content is absolutely unacceptable, said Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media: So Europe speaks up in this sense, and is fighting for the freedom of speech and the freedom to receive the news.


16th June

Update: Read Only Bloggery...

China allows visitors to read blogs but not to post

Blogspot, Google's popular blogging platform is accessible again in China, judging from reports from Chengdu and Beijing.

Blogspot has been blocked and unblocked so many times in China that is barely worth mentioning: it usually works for a few weeks, and then gets blocked again. But this time seems to be different.

In the past, even when Blogspot was inaccessible in China, people using the platform could still post to their blogs even though they could not read the blogs without a proxy. Today it seems that Blogger, the part of Blogspot used for publishing blog entries, is blocked.

This may just be a technical glitch, but perhaps it is a rather subtle strategy of the Net Nanny:

With Blogspot available, most Olympic visitors are less likely to notice Internet censorship, but stopping Blogger will make it much harder for some athletes, journalists and other visitors to publish their thoughts online.


14th June

Update: Broadcasting Protests...

Broadcasters predictably having difficulties setting up in China

The BBC will show political protests if they occur during the Beijing Olympics, the corporation has said, even if the Games' organisers attempt to censor official footage.

The BBC, the only British broadcaster with access to stadiums this summer, says it cannot be expected to hide demonstrations if they happen at events where they have cameras.

Its decision, which it stresses will be applied "responsibly", will increase Beijing's nervousness as the Games approach.

The Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, BOCOG, has already had angry exchanges with the world's leading broadcasters who complain of delays over permits to bring their equipment into the country and to deploy them around the city.

Dave Gordon, head of major sports events for the BBC, told The Daily Telegraph that Beijing had become "more difficult" for broadcasters than the Moscow Games in 1980. He said international representatives had tried to get answers for two years on whether the Olympic broadcasting agency that provides the only feed of the actual events would show footage of protests if they occurred: They fudge the question. They won't commit to saying yes, they will cover it or no, they will not cover it. They put a lot of stress on the importance of covering the sport. I think we have to draw our own conclusions.

He added it was unthinkable that if its own cameras in the stadium picked up a protest it would not be shown: We have to cover the Olympics warts and all.

The difficulties in obtaining the necessary permits to operate for other broadcasters came to a head at a meeting in Beijing on May 29. According to minutes leaked to the Associated Press, even the representative of the International Olympic Committee described Beijing's demands as "unworkable".

Another delegate, representing Asian broadcasters, said Beijing was "suffocating the television coverage in the crazy pursuit of security".

Many broadcasters want to film live from well-known but politically sensitive locations such as Tiananmen Square. They have been told this will be allowed in principle, but complain that permission seems not to be forthcoming.

Update: Fixers

See full article from Reporters without Borders , 15th June 2008

The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) has been insisting since January 2007 that the foreign media recruit professionals chosen by official intermediaries as translators. The latest rules want all Chinese working for the foreign media to be registered and suggest that the authorities should "select and name appropriate candidates" for the foreign media.

If foreign journalists want to propose their own candidates, they must provide an ID, a curriculum vitae, evidence of no criminal record and a medical certificate. And a contract must be signed between employer and employee.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China told Reporters Without Borders that hiring and registering assistants through government service agencies potentially increases bureaucracy, expense and oversight by the authorities. The FCCC hopes the foreign media will eventually be able to hire Chinese as journalists, photographers or cameramen, but for the time being that is not allowed.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned of a directive issued by the BOCOG media centre’s visa division telling journalists to submit precise information about coverage plans in China, including the places they want to visit and the people they want to interview, in order to obtain a J-2 visa, which is for media personnel who want to arrive before the 8 August start of the games. The BOCOG also requires a letter from an employer, which effectively eliminates freelancers.


4th June

Update: Not So Welcoming...

China publishes restrictions on Olympic visitors

China is warning visitors to the Olympics they could be fined or jailed without trial if they breach rules on a range of offences including staging political protests.

A list of rules for tourists coming for the Beijing Games in the summer published outlines a long list of reasons why they may not be allowed into the country at all.

Those banned will include anyone suffering from infectious diseases such as tuberculosis or sexually transmitted diseases such as Aids, the mentally ill, prostitutes, and anyone with "subversive" intent.

Books, articles and computer files with content harmful to China's politics, cultures, morals and economy would also be banned, the rules say.

But it adds that those who break the law while in China could face standard penalties. Any illegal gatherings, parades and protests and refusal to comply are subject to administrative punishments or criminal prosecution, it says.

Administrative punishments are those that can be imposed by the police without referral to the courts, and as well as fines include detention in a re-education through labour facility for up to four years.

The authorities in Beijing have begun a tightening of controls on foreigners in the run-up to the Games, imposing new visa restrictions and regular checks on residence permits, and cancelling some concerts and festivals featuring foreign acts.


9th May

Update: Olympic Sport of Repression...

China assured of gold, internet blocked and athletes gagged

Officials from China's Technology Ministry took a somewhat odd opportunity to speak about its censorship plans during a press conference after the Olympic torch relay crossed Mount Everest. They said that while the government would be able to guarantee as much [access] as possible, there's no way that China would turn off the Great Firewall entirely during the Games.

China has always been very cautious when it comes to the Internet, Technology Minister Wan Gang said, according to Reuters. I've not got any clear information about which sites will be shut or screened. But to protect the youth there are controls on some unhealthy web sites.

Wan's statement comes just over a month after the International Olympic Committee reminded China of its obligations as an Olympic host city to allow the press to report as freely as they have in the past which usually includes full, unfettered access to the Internet. The IOC insisted to the government that the Internet be open at all times during Games time, and commission vice chairman Kevan Gosper appeared optimistic that China would comply.

The IOC may have little recourse on China's decision to maintain some degree of filtering. One option for the organization is to insist on a list of things that would be blocked, such as porn sites, to ensure that the international media has free access to all of the sites it needs. However, China's vague description of unhealthy web sites gives it plenty of wiggle room.

China defends its decision by pointing out that it's not the only country to filter the Internet. Every country limits access to some web sites. Even in developed countries not every site can be accessed, Wan said. It's true that some countries do restrict the free flow of information to a degree, but very few do it as strictly as China. And, China did agree to open up the Net as part of its agreement with the IOC.

See full article from Prachatai

Athletes who wave the Tibetan flag or wear traditional dress while at the Beijing Olympics, could find themselves sanctioned under Article 51 (3) of the Olympic Charter according to guidelines issued in April by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The penalties for such a "crime" however, remain unknown.

In keeping with the conduct of China, the current Olympic host country, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has taken it upon itself to quash even the slightest sign of political expression, said ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders: The free expression of athletes is being denounced and silenced before our very eyes.

Article 51 (3) of the Olympic Charter affirms that No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas." Perhaps due to growing international attention, National Olympic Committees (NOCs) recently asked the IOC to provide an interpretation of this Article. In a six-point letter sent to NOCs in April, the IOC outlined that The conduct of participants at all sites, areas and venues includes all actions, reactions, attitudes or manifestations of any kind by a person or group of persons, including but not limited to their look, external appearance, clothing, gestures, and written or oral statements.

ARTICLE 19 and RSF call on the International Olympic Committee to immediately amend or interpret Article 51 (3) of the Olympic Charter so that it is compatible with international human rights principles on freedom of expression stemming from ARTICLE 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The right of Olympic athletes to openly comment on the situation of human rights in China or other countries must be upheld.


2nd May

Update: Olympic Filtering...

US senator suggests that Chinese will spy on Olympic internet usage

A US senator accused the Chinese government on Thursday of ordering US-owned hotels in China to install Internet filters that can spy on international visitors coming to see the summer Olympic games.

Senator Sam Brownback made the charge at a Capitol Hill news conference where he and other lawmakers denounced China's record of human rights abuses and urged President Bush not to attend the Olympic's opening ceremonies in Beijing.

This is wrong, it's against international conventions, it's certainly against the Olympic spirit, Brownback said. The Chinese government should remove that request and that order.

Brownback said he has seen the language of memos received by at least two US-owned hotels. He declined to name them, and said he obtained the information from two reliable but confidential sources in the hope that public pressure would persuade the Chinese government to back off the demand.

The filters could enable the government to monitor Web sites viewed by hotel guests and restrict Internet information coming in and out of China, Brownback said.

The senator called China the foremost enabler of human rights abuses around the world" and said the Chinese government is turning the summer games into an Olympics of oppression.


4th April

Update: Olympic Sport of Internet Blocking...

China promises unfiltered internet for foreign media at least

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed that international media will have access to uncensored internet during the 8-24 August sportsfest in Beijing and that TV transmission of the games will not be subject to a delay.

According to Reuters, the IOC's chief inspector said that, despite the Chinese regime's routine censorship of net content and penchant for delaying or censoring TV signals, this would not affect the 30,000-strong foreign media expected to cover the games.

Hein Verbruggen told a press conference concluding the committee's final inspection of the games: We were satisfied by the assurances we received across a number of areas - media service levels, including internet access ... and the live broadcast feed.


26th March

Firewall Fireworks...

BBC website unblocked in China after 10 years

People in China are able to access English language stories on the BBC News website in full, after years of strict censorship by Beijing. The BBC News website has been blocked for almost a decade.

The Communist authorities often block news sites such as the BBC in a policy dubbed the "great firewall of China".

But BBC staff working in China now say they are able to access news stories that would have been blocked before.

However, the firewall remains in place for Chinese language services on the website and for any links in Chinese.

Beijing has never admitted to blocking access to BBC news stories - and there has been no official confirmation that the website has been unblocked.

Technology experts say such a development would not be possible without the approval of internet service providers - which are under strict supervision by Beijing.

Typically fewer than 100 people read BBC stories from Chinese computers - but on Tuesday that figure jumped to more than 16,000.

The Chinese authorities had promised to give foreign journalists more freedom in the run-up to this summer's Olympic Games. But analysts say that recent outbreaks of unrest in Tibet have made this promise more difficult for Beijing to uphold.

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