Google News, YouTube blocked in China amid Tibet riots

Google News and YouTube are blocked in China amid protests in Tibet.

Beijing appears to have taken a page out of Myanmar's playbook by blocking some Internet access amid rioting in Tibet that has already seen as many as 80 people killed, according to the Tibetan government in exile.

China has blocked access to Google News and YouTube in an apparent attempt to stop the spread of video footage related the rioting going on in several cities in Tibet, including the capital Lhasa. Demonstrations in the city started on March 10, a day commemorating the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule after which the spiritual leader of the country, the Dalai Lama, fled to India.

China has said the Dalai Lama is to blame for rioting in the country, and puts the civilian death toll at 13, while adding that police and security forces have also suffered casualties.

The Dalai Lama has denied involvement in the rioting, and said he has "no such power to stop it," in a video of a recent news conference posted on his Web site.

"Whether the Chinese government admits it or not, there is a problem," he said "The Tibetan nation, an ancient nation with an ancient cultural heritage, is actually dying."

China's decision to block access to the sites follows similar government censorship of protests by Myanmar. Last September, Myanmar cut off Internet access entirely to block people from viewing pictures and videos or sending them out of the country. Some analysts at the time said the protests likely spread through the help of the Web, in addition to winning global condemnation of the violent crackdown on protesters there.

Two videos about the situations in Tibet posted on YouTube by the user Amdo2007 both appear to show peaceful demonstrations. The first shows a public gathering, including Tibetan monks in their distinctive saffron robes, while the second video shows what appears to be peaceful marching.

Some videos, including one from Amdo2007, have been "flagged by YouTube's user community" so that users have to verify they are 18 or older by logging in or signing up. The video shows bodies on the streets, protesters throwing rocks at Chinese army vehicles and other images. It may have the most hits, over 80,000 so far, on the subject.

Chinese media and international media have shown footage of buildings burning and crowds damaging store-fronts. Some stations, such as the BBC, picked up photos and other contributions from tourists in Tibet.

Foreign media have been banned from Tibet, according to a CNN video, which says the station has not been able to send a team to report the news. China's own press is run by the state.

(With additional reporting by Sumner Lemon in Beijing.)

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Dan Nystedt

IDG News Service

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