China's lifting of blocks on the Web sites of several foreign news organizations for a weekend Asia-Pacific summit attended by US President George W. Bush proved temporary. They were back in place yesterday.
China quietly lifted blocks on the Web sites of CNN, the BBC and Reuters for meetings of the 21-member APEC organization in Shanghai, which culminated in the weekend summit.
Within hours of Bush flying home after the close of the biggest international gathering in China's Communist history, the Web sites were once again accessible only through third-party servers located abroad and known as proxies.
China's Ministry of State Security -- widely thought to be partly responsible for blocking Web sites -- was not available for comment. The Internet Security Department of the Beijing Public Security Bureau declined comment.
"It's classic that they put the blocks back on literally when Bush cleared customs to leave," said Duncan Clark, managing director of Beijing-based telecoms company BDA China Ltd.
"Part of it is the Big Brother mentality, but I think it is largely symbolic as you can still see the information through proxies," he said. "It is a constant cycle of crackdown and relaxation here, but lifting censorship is probably the last thing the Communists would do before turning their lights out."
The block on Web sites run by Western news organizations is not a blanket block. Sites such as Yahoo.com and the Web site of the International Herald Tribune have not been blocked. Reuters news is widely available on both.
The New York Times site was unblocked several weeks ago, again with no public explanation.
China, which guides its main domestic media with a heavy hand, did not unblock politically sensitive sites during APEC.
Those promoting the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, including Clearwisdom.net, remained blocked throughout.
Similarly, media control during the summit was tight, with Chinese viewers only able to watch a delayed and heavily edited version of President Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) news conference with Bush after their first meeting on Friday.
Not even foreign networks carried live coverage of the news conference due to a dispute with state broadcaster China Central Television, which asked for a hefty US$8,000 fee to transmit live footage of Bush and Jiang.
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