Tag Archives: Great Firewall

Google Search Now Blocked in China

via Shanghaiist
In case you haven’t already heard, Google searches (on Google.com and Google.com.hk, according to reports on Twitter) now all return a reset connection, i.e., they have been blocked by China’s net nanny.

However, the good news is that many people (we saw it on Kaiser Kuo’s Twitter, among others) are reporting they can still use Google via the search bar in their browsers or through GMail. And others have speculated that at least Google.com.hk is blocked only because its search URLs include “&gs_rfai=”. RFA, or Radio Free Asia, is an American pro-democracy and anti-CCP radio station and searches for RFA are blocked, so it’s likely that if that is the reason for the block, Google could undo it by changing the URLs that their searches result in.

Still, all of this is secondhand knowledge. We’ll wait on Chinayouren for the official report as Julen is the master GFW tester, but we’d love to hear four things from you in the comments:

  1. Where you are.
  2. Whether search works for you on Google.com.hk
  3. Whether search works for you on Google.com.
  4. Whether Google search works for you via a browser search bar, GMail search bar, or some other means.

Whatever the ultimate result of this Google block, you can be sure the media firestorm is coming. To keep track of all the sides and how they’re spinning things, Imagethief has got a handy chart for you!

On a small housekeeping note, you will notice we have returned the ability to rate posts. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Good news! Google has confirmed that the “rfa” in its search results URLs was what was triggering the block, so Google searches in China should be restored soon.

The Death of the GFW? (Probably Not)

UPDATE: Sadly, it seems like the party is already over. That makes the “installing new software” theory seem like the most likely contender.

Again, we can’t confirm this, and it seems as though it MUST be temporary, but there are reports that the internet, or at least large parts of it that have been blocked for a long time, are now unblocked.

From Chang Ping’s blog:

I’m not sure of the reason [these websites are unblocked] at the moment, but anyway it’s very pleasing, consider it a New Year’s present.

Chang Ping also notes that in the future, he’ll be referring to Liu Xiaobo as “L XB”, presumably in hopes of avoiding being reblocked.

C.A. Yeung’s blog has more information and we won’t bother repeating it, but suffice it to say that at the moment, no one seems to know what exactly is going on.

So turn off your VPNs and see what’s blocked and unblocked where you are!

UPDATE: Sadly, it seems like the party is already over. That makes the “installing new software” theory seem like the most likely contender.

Discussion Section: How Far Can Internet Censorship Go?

There’s been quite a bit of news and discussion of late as the government continues to tighten the screws of the internet (a good overview is Rebecca MacKinnon’s newest post). The blocking of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites has given way to wider blocks on a variety of portals, including bittorrent sites and even the sites of some legitimate internet companies. Things certainly seem to be heading in the direction of less freedoms on the internet.

At the same time, some netizens and bloggers feel that despite the tightening screws, there’s actually more free discussion happening than ever before, thanks to the aforementioned social networking sites and the many netizens willing to “climb the wall”, i.e., find a way of getting around the Great Firewall (see Danwei’s video on the 2009 China Blogger Conference for more on this). Despite the blocks, things like this video (a documentary on Tan Zuoren’s investigation of the shoddy architecture that led to the deaths of many students during the Sichuan earthquake) are still finding their way onto the net:

(The video is only in Chinese, sadly, but if you speak it, we recommend watching it. Apparently, they’re also going to use it as evidence in Tan Zuoren’s trial to attempt to defend him against the charge that he was trying to subvert the state).

Anyway, the questions we put to you today are many: First, how much further do you think the censorship and tightening will go? Second, do you think this policy can be successful? Will there ever be a Great Firewall so tight no one can get around it? Moreover, could the government have an increasingly large dissent problem on their hands as the block stops just affecting the small minority of hardcore bloggers and porn enthusiasts and begins to affect the average Chinese internet user (as illegal purveyors of music, movies, TV shows, mobile content, etc., are beginning to be blocked)? And finally, does any of this censorship do anyone any good?

Also of note: If you weren’t already aware that housing prices in China were a problem, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has some news for you: 85% of Chinese families can’t afford a house. According to the article, the average house costs about the same as the average Chinese farmer’s income over thirty years. So, renting it is.

More Security Tightening in Tibet

It appears the Chinese government is taking no chances with the upcoming anniversary of last year’s unrest in Tibet and other Tibetan ethnic regions. The New York Times is reporting that

the authorities have imposed an unofficial state of martial law on the vast highlands where ethnic Tibetans live, with thousands of troops occupying areas they fear could erupt in renewed rioting on a momentous anniversary next week. And Beijing is determined to keep foreigners from seeing the mass deployment.


Tibetan regions, a sprawling, lightly populated swath of western China that measures about one-quarter of the country’s total territory, have become militarized zones. Sandbag outposts have been set up in the middle of towns, army convoys rumble along highways, and paramilitary officers search civilian cars. A curfew has been imposed on Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

The reporter, Edward Wong, says he got a look at the situation firsthand while being driven through some of the areas during the 20 hours he was held — with no explanation given — in police custody.

As we reported yesterday, the propaganda machine is already firing on all cylinders to put China’s side of the Tibetan story out to the world at large. Now it seems extra security is being rolled in to be sure nothing that could embarrass the government happens, and foreigners are being kept out in case it does.

Nepal, too, is concerned about the anniversary (there was some unrest there as well) and has banned all protesting around the Chinese embassy.

Perhaps related, perhaps coincidental, is that popular video-sharing site Youtube has very recently been blocked in China (h/t Danwei), or at least, there are reports from various parts of the country that the site is blocked. ChinaGeeks can confirm that the site is currently inaccessible in Harbin. Mutant Palm has a more detailed breakdown of the blockage reports for those interested.

UPDATE: As of March 6 at 12:45 Beijing time, Youtube access was back (at least in Harbin). A search for “Tibet Protest” in English revealed no censorship, but a search using the same keywords in Chinese appeared similarly uncensored at first glance.