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China 5 April 2008

China urged to go beyond charm offensive and unblock thousands of websites

(JPEG) (Picture : Wikipedia) Reporters Without Borders today called on the Chinese authorities to step up unblocking of websites ahead of the Beijing Olympics, instead of merely going for a charm offensive intended to mollify international opinion.

Since 1st April, the English versions of Wikipedia, YouTube and Blogspot have been made accessible again, but thousands of websites are still blocked, including the vast majority of foreign-based news sites in Chinese, such as the Chinese service of the BBC.

“It is a step forward in Internet access in China, but to only unblock the English versions of these sites is not enough and does not demonstrate that the Chinese authorities are making progress in free expression online,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“This decision comes at a time when Hu Jia has just been jailed for three and a half years for posting articles on the Internet. We urge the Chinese authorities to guarantee that the unblocking of these sites is not just for the period of the Olympic Games and simply a charm offensive aimed at the international community.”

The organisation also called for the lifting of censorship on Chinese language websites.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 1st April voiced its concern about online censorship in China and urged the authorities to ensure that the media can do their job “before and after the Olympic Games”.

Some foreign media websites, such as that of Radio Canada/CBC, and international organisations like Reporters Without Borders, have not been unblocked. China has five government offices dedicated to Internet censorship and remains the world’s largest prison for cyber-dissidents, 48 of whom are currently behind bars.

The English versions of Wikipedia, YouTube and Blogspot were respectively blocked by the authorities, on November 2006, March 2008 and January 2008.

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