Bloggers frustrated as Beijing blocks Google service
20 May 2009
South China Morning Post
Blogger.com, Google's free blog service, has been blocked by mainland authorities since late last week, and thousands of users have complained.
It is the second time in less than two months that users have been unable to access popular platforms.
In March, netizens were denied access to Google's video-sharing website YouTube after a film showing police brutally beating Tibetans in last year's Lhasa riots was uploaded. Xinhua said the video was fabricated by supporters of the Dalai Lama.
This time, netizens do not know why their blogs are being blocked, with many assuming it is related to political sensitivity.
Nick Wong, who has used Blogger since 2006 and first found his blog was blocked last Friday, said most users believed the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown on June 4 could be the reason.
Mr Wong said overseas hosts were the only choice for bloggers who criticised the government, and used sensitive characters in their posts. He said he was going to have to move his blog. "This is my fourth blog to be blocked by the government since 2005," he said.
Google's China headquarters have yet to comment.
Outspoken blogger Bei Feng, whose Blogger site was blocked five years ago, estimated that 200,000 users may have been affected. He added that many Chinese users of Blogger were based overseas.
Amid the release of the memoirs of late party chief Zhao Ziyang , "it was not surprising officials wanted to cut channels like Blogger that the mainland public could use to access Zhao's articles", he added.
Users were already posting hints on forums about how they could blog without censorship. Others were concerned they would lose everything they had posted.
"It really hurts when you realise you might lose all your work from the last couple of years," said Mr Wong, adding that he was not even able to access his blog through a proxy server. "It is even worse when there is nowhere for you to complain."
Amid the series of sensitive anniversaries, which also include the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on October 1, the authorities have been tightening controls over the media and internet.
Asked about the YouTube block in March, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the government did not fear the internet. "In fact, it is just the opposite," he said.