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Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Blogger describes Xinjiang as an 'internet prison'

Josh and his wife Tiffany
Josh and Tiffany have lived in Xinjiang since 2006

Following the ethnic unrest in Xinjiang in July 2009, internet access in the region has been severely restricted - far more than in other parts of China.

The situation is gradually improving, but an American blogger living in the area says many sites are still strictly censored.

JOSH, KARAMAY, XINJIANG

Until recently, my only hope of communicating internationally and making contact with my family in the United States was to leave the province of Xinjiang. For six months after the riots in Urumqi we were left without text messages, international calls and the internet - save for some local government websites.

Then, after Christmas, we got news that the internet and various other communication systems would be restored. The city where I live, Karamay, was suddenly buzzing with excitement.

This fizzled out quickly when, out of the millions of websites currently blocked, only two were opened: the People's Daily and Xinhua, both of which are government controlled.

The restoration continued into the new year, although now it was apparent that all new freedom would come with restrictions. When text messaging reopened, it was restricted to 20 messages per day. When international calling initially resumed, it was limited by the need to wait in line to use a monitored telephone.

Chinese news aggregator Sohu as seen in most of China (left) and Xianjiang (right)
News aggregator Sohu as seen in most of China (left) and Xianjiang (right)

Finally state media hailed the return of Sohu and Sina, two of China's most popular news portals, but the sites have been completely censored - they are unrecognisable save the logo.

If you access these sites from Xinjiang, there are no adverts, you can't log on, email or access the forums. The search function is also unavailable, as is the possibility of changing language. The whole layout looks different - we're behind a firewall within China's great firewall.

People doing business at an international or even national level have been severely inconvenienced. But most people have resigned themselves to this situation.

People hold out some hope that someday everything will return to the way it was, but the government has given us no timetable.

International calls have finally resumed on our own phones, so I can now call my family without using a public phone.

I look forward to the day when Xinjiang will be released from the internet prison it's in.

Read Josh's regular updates about internet restrictions in Xinjiang on his website Xinjiang: Far West China



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