Beijing government restricts Internet

The Great Firewall of China has been reinforced to stop the flow of information about Tibetan independence protests spreading on the mainland.

Beijing authorities have stepped up their restrictions on Internet access following the riots, with YouTube blocked and users in Beijing complaining of difficulty accessing a number of websites.

Google-owned YouTube hosted dozens of videos of foreign news reports of the protests in Tibet, as well as photos and footage from overseas Tibetan demonstrations.

The BBC website is blocked in China, although BBC World can be accessed in hotels and diplomatic compounds.

Domestic websites such as youku.com and tudou.com have not carried coverage of the riots, but the Chinese media is reporting them in Tibet and neighboring provinces, in which scores of people have reportedly been killed.

Local reports have been extremely critical of the Tibetan independence movement. The official news agency Xinhua is reporting that 10 died in the riots, which it blamed on “vandals” in the employ of the “Dalai clique,” referring to the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who fled the Himalayan enclave after a failed uprising in 1959.

There were 210 million Internet users in China at the end of 2007, but Beijing-based research firm BDA believes that figure has now surpassed the 216 million who use the Internet in the U.S.

The Internet is a conundrum for the Chinese government, which is keen to take advantage of its commercial and educational opportunities but is less enthusiastic about the forum it offers for potential dissent and pornography.

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