HONG KONG—The Web site of an influential Singapore news organization has been blocked in China since late Monday for unknown reasons, according to Chinese netizens and staff at the newspaper.
Lianhe Zaobao, or The United Morning News, is a Chinese-language newspaper whose Web site, zaobao.com, could previously be accessed in China without using any firewall-scaling software.
A netizen in China’s northeastern province of Jilin, who asked to remain anonymous, said in an interview he was unable to access the site.
“I am now clicking on Singapore’s zaobao.com, but can’t open it. On the screen there is a message that says ‘The Web page is not accessible,’” the netizen said.
“I used to be able to get on the site but it can no longer be read,” he said.
In an interview on Tuesday, an employee of the Lianhe Zaobao newspaper’s advertising department in China confirmed the erasure of zaobao.com from the Chinese online browsing list.
“The Web site has been blocked and you can’t open it. We don’t know the reason,” he said.
A staff member in the China advertising department at Lianhe Zaobao’s headquarters in Singapore also confirmed the closure of its Web site in China.
“The site can’t be accessed in China since [Monday], and it is inconvenient for me to talk about the reason. But as far as I know, this is because of technical problems on the Chinese side,” the staff member said.
When asked if the shutdown was due to any reporting that would be viewed as sensitive in China, the Singapore-based staff member declined to comment.
Calls to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the governing body that monitors China's Internet content, went unanswered.
Lianhe Zaobao is seen as an amicable media outlet in China, and its Web page was previously one of the extremely few overseas Chinese language media sites to remain unblocked.
But cyber analysts in China say the Monday shutdown is likely related to a recent article Lianhe Zaobao ran headlined "Cyber Crackdown in China Angers Netizens."
Beijing-based cyber expert Xun Jian, whose own Web site, The Future Society, was censored recently, warned that China would pay a price for the Internet crackdown.
“The annual sweeping Internet closure is equal to cutting off the cultural communication between China and the outside world,” Xun said.
“During the Industrial Revolution, China was left behind. Now, in the time of the Information Revolution, these arbitrary closures will again deprive China of its chances, pushing the country increasingly backward,” he said.
In a separate development, an article by Beijing-based blogger Ling Cangzhou was blocked amidst Beijing’s new campaign against freedom of speech on the Internet in China.
Last Thursday, Ling posted his article "Human Rights in China’s Three Kingdoms and the West Jin Period" on his blog through Chinese Web portal NetEase, only to later find it banned.
“The article deals with the ancient history of 2,000 years ago,” Ling said on Tuesday.
“It tells how cruel the despots of that time were and how miserable people suffered. Can such an article be harmful to today’s society?” he questioned.
“Banning such an article is an abuse of editorial power and also an illegal act. I strongly protest this action,” he said.
Ling, whose blog is widely read, said he would stop using NetEase to post his blog entries for one month to show his frustration.
Increase in online censorship
Many of China’s nearly 360 million netizens are disgruntled at the increasing failure of Internet circumvention tools to get around the sophisticated set of blocks and censorship filters known as the “Great Firewall.”
Chinese netizens and overseas technology experts say the authorities are now successfully undermining key software used to get around the Great Firewall, such as U.S.-based software developer Andrew Lewman’s Tor “tunneling” software and U.S.-based Dynamic Internet Technology’s Freegate software.
Netizens have also reported problems using Chinese versions of the micro-blogging service, Twitter.
Additionally, China has detained dozens of bloggers and online authors in recent months.
Authorities around the country subjected dozens more to temporary house arrest and police interviews ahead of the sensitive 60th anniversary of Communist Party rule on Oct. 1.
Original reporting by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Ping Chen. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.