The Guardian suffered briefly earlier this month when its English-language website was blocked by Chinese authorities, but now access to the British paper’s website has again been cut in China following the publishing of an investigative report, and it appears that this outage could last longer.
China’s censors rarely blocks English-language media, instead preferring to focus its scrutiny on Chinese sites (which have greater reach among locals), but this reblocking has ominous signs for The Guardian.
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There was no apparent trigger for the earlier block — which lasted barely a day — but this time around the move appears to be in response to a story that revealed the offshore wealth of some of the country’s top politicial and military figures. That suggests it was no accident, and that the block could remain in place for some time.
One suggestion, offered by Chinese censorship monitoring organization Great Fire, is that the early blockage was a test that was carried out in anticipation of the offshore story.
— GreatFire.org (@GreatFireChina) January 22, 2014
Without getting too deep into conspiracy theories, this is plausible but it’s impossible to know for sure since China doesn’t offer details on censorship policies or initiatives.
China past censorship of Western media has seen the Chinese version of Bloomberg blocked in June 2012 and the New York Times China going dark in October — both had published investigative reports about high-ranking politicians. Those reports were likely behind the delay in granting new visas for around two dozen Bloomberg and New York Times reporters, who finally got the required documents last month, just in time renew their stays in China.
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