China Internet Censorship: International Websites Down As Users Worry About Expansion Of 'Great Firewall'

12/04/2012 16:58 | Updated 13 April 2012
  • Felicity Morse Huffington Post UK

Fears that China's internet censorship is to become even more stringent were triggered on Thursday morning after many internet users in China said they could not access any foreign sites at all for about an hour.

Their complaint came amid the news that the Chinese government deleted more than 210,000 online posts following the scandal of senior party leader Bo Xilai.

The wife of the senior politician was named as the key suspect in the death of British man Neil Heywood.

Internet censors continued to block searches for the politicians name on Tuesday, showing how politically sensitive the issue was for the Chinese government.

Around 42 sites were shut down in the government outage as well as posts deleted in a bid to control rumours surrounding the case.

Speculation increased on social media sites, and China's popular microblogging service, weibos, after party sources reported that Bo Xilai had been suspended.

"Actions of creating and spreading rumors via the Internet disrupt public order and undermine social stability, and will never be tolerated" Liu Zhengrong, a senior official with the State Internet Information Office told Xinhua news agency.

However the government's crackdown on online rumours were not officially connected to the internet blockage.

China has the largest online population, with more than 500 million users logging on to search the web. However it also has the tightest internet controls in the world.

Many internet sites deemed 'damaging' to the Chinese government are already blocked in the strict communist state, in restrictions nicknamed "The Great Firewall."

However, some believe that the 8.5 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia on Wednesday was to blame, damaging the three cables which provide China with internet gateways.

An earthquake in Taiwan two years ago caused a similar outage, but there were a number of differences with Thursday's event.

Internet users outside China were not able to access key urls inside the country, such as Baidu and Xinhua (the news site quoted above).

Additionally experts told The Telegraph that if the cables had been damaged this would mean that domestic sites in China would also be unavailable, which was not the case.

Some speculated on social networks that the power of "The Great Firewall" was being tested, to see if it could isolate Chinese internet users from accessing international sites, should the need arise.

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