China’s Internet regulator, asked about the apparent blocking of some online accounts of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, yesterday said that Internet service providers were responsible for online content and had the right to shut down Web sites.
The comment came in response to an enquiry about reports that the social media accounts of Hong Kong’s biggest English-language daily newspaper had been blocked and that a critical online Chinese-language Caixin magazine article had been deleted.
“The state Internet information office has enforcement responsibility, in accordance with the law, to carry out Internet information content management and supervision,” the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a faxed statement.
“Internet information service providers take on the main responsibility for any law-breaking and harmful Internet accounts that exist, and have the right in accordance with the relevant laws and rules and their user ‘service agreements’ to take measures including temporarily halting usage and cancelling registration,” it said.
The South China Morning Post has in recent weeks reported the mystery of five Hong Kong booksellers who dealt in gossipy books about Chinese leaders and went missing only to resurface in Chinese custody. The five went missing over the past six months, sparking fears in the West that Chinese authorities were overriding the “one country, two systems” formula protecting Hong Kong’s freedoms since its return to China from British rule in 1997.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said its law enforcement officials would never do anything illegal, especially not overseas, and called on foreign governments not to interfere in Hong Kong affairs.
The Post has also reported freely on anti-Beijing street protests in Hong Kong and the territory’s annual commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, which are taboo in China.
China’s influential state-backed tabloid Global Times yesterday published an article saying that while China was exploring a wider public discourse, particularly on the Internet, limits to free speech were narrower in China than in the West.
The apparent blocking of the Post accounts comes during the annual National People’s Congress session in Beijing, which has traditionally been a politically sensitive time.
The Weibo social media account of the Post shows a message saying: “Sorry, there’s an error with the account you’re trying to visit and it is temporarily unavailable.”
A search for the Post’s WeChat account does not produce any results. but scanning a QR code leads to a page that says: “Features for this blocked account not available.”
The newspaper’s Web site has a message saying it is not available.
The Post has not reported that it has been blocked and spokesman Michael Chu did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Thursday or yesterday.
A spokesman for Sina Weibo Corp (新浪微博) declined to comment, as did Tencent Holdings Ltd (騰訊), the company that owns WeChat.
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