China blocks Taiwan story

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Western and Hong Kong news Web sites, including that of the New York Times, experienced censorship at the hands of the Chinese government last week in an apparent reversal of the open-media policy touted in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

The censorship, stemming from a reference to Taiwan, echoes past moves that experts said happen most often during times of economic or political tension.

Last week, Beijing reminded foreign news organizations that reference to Taiwan as a sovereign nation is a no-no.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Chinese law allows censorship of Web sites that break the government's rules. Beijing has considered Taiwan a renegade province since the island split off and became self-governing in 1949.

"I hope that the Web sites in question will be able to self- regulate and not do things that will violate Chinese law and, for the sake of both sides, develop conditions for Web site cooperation," Liu said in a statement posted Dec. 16 on the ministry's Web site.

The statement followed a Dec. 15 Times article about the first direct plane flight between China and Taiwan since the end of a civil war between communists and nationalists, 59 years ago. In the article, the Times referred to Taipei as the Taiwanese capital.

Censorship of the Times Web site, experienced most widely Friday, began in early December for other news Web sites, including those of the BBC, Voice of America and Hong Kong-based publications Ming Pao and Asiaweek.

As of Monday, the Times Web site was accessible again from average computers inside China that were not using a virtual private network.

The site was not blocked "for a very long time," a Times insider in Beijing said. "So, we're surprised." (partialdiff)
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