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China blocks YouTube, reporters over Tibet news

Broad Internet controls have blocked YouTube and most chat rooms.

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The security lockdown, though incompatible with China's international commitments, has precedents elsewhere. During the last Gulf War, the US Army prevented reporters from working in areas of Iraq under its control unless they were embedded with US forces; the Russian Army imposed similar restrictions in Chechnya; and the Israeli army has often declared "closed military areas" in the occupied territories, though the zones from which they ban journalists temporarily are nowhere near as large as the areas closed to reporters here in recent days.

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The Tibetan Autonomous Region, as Tibet is known, is off-limits to foreign journalists unless they are given a rarely issued special permit. A reporter for The Economist, who had been given such a permit before the violence broke out in Lhasa last Monday, is in the capital; another reporter is known to have reached there traveling as a tourist, but both are confined to their hotels.

When the Beijing bureau of the French TV station "FR2" applied for a permit last week, the Foreign Ministry official they approached told them that he could not handle it because his fax machine was broken.

Foreign journalists working from offices in designated diplomatic compounds in Beijing, meanwhile, report that their Internet access has slowed dramatically. The authorities have also imposed such a heavy blanket block on all Internet sites relating to Tibet that even the Tibetan government's official site is inaccessible from inside China.

You may read official reports only

The government has been even more successful in severely restricting Chinese citizens' access to information about the unrest. Newspapers and TV programs have carried only reports by the government-run Xinhua news agency, which has reported a significantly lower death toll than Tibetan exile groups and concentrated on attacking the Dalai Lama for allegedly organizing the violence.

Nor has Xinhua carried reports on any of the protests in provinces neighboring Tibet, restricting its coverage to Lhasa.

YouTube has been blocked for China-based Web surfers, as video of events in Lhasa was posted there. Internet news portals such as Sina.com and Sohu.com have also been forbidden to post any reports other than those from Xinhua, and the comments function under those reports has been locked.

Some sites with no relation to Tibet have kept chat rooms open, and to judge by comments on PCHome.net, a site dedicated to high-tech gizmos, the government need not fear public debate. The comments, such as "After we hold the Olympics we will get revenge" and "We should not be gentle, we should use violence against violence," are overwhelmingly hostile to Tibetans.

Though comments sympathetic to Tibetans have most likely been deleted by site moderators to avoid being closed down, some "internauts" have questioned the ban on public comment.

"Such big news. Why is discussion in China completely banned?" asked one anonymous post on the Tianya.com site, based in the southern island of Hainan. "All real Chinese should care about this."

The restrictions on information in China are likely to draw increasing attention in the run-up to the Olympic Games, says Ms. Liu, who is Newsweek's Beijing correspondent.

"I fear that they [the authorities] will circle the wagons and stonewall," she says. "And that is not in keeping with the international community's expectations of an Olympic host nation."

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