China clicks on BBC News site

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NEW YORK -- The people of China were able to access English-language stories on the BBC News site in full Monday after years of strict control by Beijing.

While Beijing has never admitted to blocking access to BBC News and -- according to the BBC -- there has been no official confirmation that the site has been unblocked, BBC staffers working in China now say they are able to access news stories that would have been blocked previously.

"We want BBC News to be as accessible in China as anywhere else in the world," BBC News' Web editor Steve Herrmann said Tuesday. "We will endeavor to continue working with the Chinese authorities to improve our access in other areas."

Such access will require the cooperation of China's Internet service providers, which are strictly controlled by Beijing.

Chinese authorities have promised to give foreign journalists more freedom in the run-up to the Olympics in August.

The unblocking of the BBC site comes a day after Chinese media cut scenes of a press freedom protest that took place at Monday's Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Greece. China has been trying to contain media reports of civil unrest in Tibet since March 10. All foreigners were ejected from Tibet after the protests turned violent March 14.

A firewall remains in place for Chinese-language services on the BBC News site, and BBC World News television remains available in China only in luxury hotels and residence compounds.

In 1994, Rupert Murdoch's Star TV in China dropped BBC World News after the Beijing government was angered by BBC reports and promotional videos, one of which frequently showed a man facing down a tank near Tiananmen Square during China's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989.

Traffic to the BBC News site from China has been much higher than usual since the site became available last week, the company said.
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