China's grip on Web prevents dissent on deadly riots

China cut off the Internet and some phone service in Xinjiang province after 156 were killed

Beijing's Internet clampdown appears to have succeeded in shutting out dissenting views over deadly riots in western China that claimed at least 156 lives.

Internet and some phone service was cut off in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, after members of the Uighur minority group clashed with Han Chinese in the city on Sunday.

The rioting, officially the most deadly violence in China in decades, gave release to simmering tension between the culturally distinct ethnic groups and to Uighur discontent with Chinese rule.

Over 1,000 people were injured, and China has arrested more than 1,400 people suspected of involvement, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which gave the current death toll.

The clashes follow an uprising in Tibet last year, after which China similarly blocked Web sites to prevent the spread of unofficial videos and accounts of the news. Demands for greater autonomy in Xinjiang and Tibet are hyper-sensitive issues that China views as a threat.

Shocked Chinese have turned to the Internet to discuss the event. But views expressed in online forums have largely hewed to the government's position on the riots, suggesting initial success for its efforts to control public opinion through the Internet and other media.

China is working to ensure that its take on the event dominates discussion in the media and online, and it is doing so more effectively than it did after the riots in Tibet, said Phelim Kine, a Hong Kong-based researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

"There seems to have been a very steep and dramatic learning curve," Kine said.

China shut down the Internet in Urumqi the day of the riots, much faster than the 10 days it took to block YouTube after the Tibet uprising last year, when dozens of videos were uploaded.

Some unofficial videos of the rioting this week appeared on YouTube too, mainly showing hundreds of people marching peacefully through streets. But since Internet access was blocked in Urumqi, videos uploaded to the site have mostly drawn on clips from Chinese state media reports.

Those reports have shown burning cars and bloodied Han Chinese in hospitals or lying on streets.

The switch in the dominant images reflects China's efforts to guide coverage of the event, said Kine.

China has encouraged migration to Xinjiang by Han Chinese, who are by far the country's majority. Uighur advocates say Han Chinese often get the better jobs in the province.

Online forums in China appear to have stepped up the message screening they usually practice to prevent sensitive material from appearing on their sites. Searches for "Urumqi" or "Xinjiang" in a Baidu forum on Tuesday returned no results, and a message that the material was temporarily barred from discussion "in accordance with relevant laws and policies."

Many messages that appeared in other forums criticized Uighur violence against Han Chinese. Some users posted pictures and video clips from the state-run media reports.

"People from Xinjiang can kill others without getting the death sentence?" one user said in the Tianya forum.

"I suggest sentencing all of them to death," another user replied.

"I strongly condemn this and resolutely support the government's decisions!" another user wrote in a forum on the Sina.com Web portal.

Twitter remained blocked in China on Tuesday after it became inaccessible following the riots. YouTube has been blocked in China for months.

China has blamed a Uighur organization it labels separatist for inciting the riots. The rioting was spurred by a deadly brawl over a week earlier between members of the two ethnic groups in a far-away southern Chinese city, Xinhua said. That fight left two Uighurs dead and dozens injured, the agency said.

A Chinese official confirmed the Internet had been switched off in parts of Urumqi to prevent the spread of the rioting, but did not say when service would resume, Xinhua said Tuesday.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Chinainternet filteringinternet

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Owen Fletcher

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?