In the early days of the current Tibetan crisis more than a few bloggers (have) reined in their comments on the crisis for fear that their blogs would be blocked by China’s online censors (thus losing access to a Mainland Chinese audience). Though traditional journalists did not have the same level of concern, I know for fact that several foreign correspondents were expecting their sites (major newspapers) to be blocked in China in retaliation for aggressive coverage of the issues. That this hasn’t happened on a wide scale – the blocking, that is – might be a testament to how little the Chinese authorities fear the English-language media (the number of Chinese who can and do read them is vanishingly small). Whatever the case, it’s a surprise.
But if all is well with media based overseas, the same cannot be said for media based in Hong Kong. Case in point: the South China Morning Post. For the last week, subscribers – like me – have been able to access the paper’s contents without a problem so long as those contents don’t include critical stories about Tibet. Positive stories – say, relatively benign accounts of yesterday’s foreign journalist junket to Lhasa – those get through. Of course,this is nothing new: China’s Great Firewall (or Golden Shield), has imposed content-specific blocks for years (The Atlantic’s Jim Fallows describes the means by which they do this, here). But usually, those blocks apply to an entire site. What I’ve never seen before the current crisis, are blocks that might apply to only a portion of page, or site. Take, for example, a screen shot taken just a few minutes ago, after I tried to access a negative Tibet-related story on the SCMP (please click on the image for the full-sized, detailed image):
Somehow, someway, the actual content of the story – minus the headline – has been deleted. However, if I access the same story using a proxy (in this case, TOR), the full content is readily available (again, please click the thumbnail for a detailed screen shot).
I’d be curious to hear from anyone who is experiencing something similar. It’s possible, I suppose, that this is nothing new, that content-specific blocks like this have been happening for years, and I’ve just been missing them. If that’s the case, please let me know.