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China blocks N.Y. Times’ website

Beijing government defends censorship

BEIJING — China has blocked access to the New York Times website, days after the Beijing government defended its right to censor online content it considers illegal.

Meanwhile, a Chinese woman known as “Kappa Girl,” whose homemade erotic pic became an online sensation, has been detained by police in Shanghai.

Attempts to log on to the New York Times website late Sunday failed, producing the message that comes up whenever one tries to access a banned site in China.

Beijing loosened many controls on Internet content during the 2008 Olympics in compliance with an agreement with the Intl. Olympic Committee, but it has started rolling back some of those freedoms in recent weeks.

Times spokeswoman Catherine J. Mathis said there were no technical difficulties in accessing the paper’s website. It was functioning fine for readers in Japan and Hong Kong, she said.

The slowing economy means the government is keen to keep a lid on any kind of dissent spreading and causing social unrest.

The government has previously temporarily blocked the Chinese-language website of the BBC, and websites of Voice of America, Asiaweek and Ming Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper, earlier in the week. But apart from Ming Pao the sites were all accessible Friday.

Last week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said China reserved the right to censor websites that have material deemed illegal by the government, saying that other countries regulate Internet use.

Cutting out smut is one of the reasons often given for China’s strict controls of the Web. Pornography is illegal in China, although it is widely available on pirated DVDs throughout the country, and on the Internet.

Right now a 12-minute video showing a shop assistant surnamed Huang performing “sex acts” is one of the hottest downloads in China, where there are around 290 million webizens. She is known as “Kappa Girl” because she worked at an outlet of the Kappa sportswear brand at a Shanghai shopping mall.

The woman set up a blog to benefit from her newfound fame, the China Daily newspaper reported, and journalists contacting her looking for interviews were told they would have to pay 30,000 yuan ($4,383) a pop.

The video is still available online, and it is unclear what kind of charges she will face.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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