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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
BBC News Online blocked at Apec
Reporter at Apec forum surfs the internet
Media are puzzled by China's choice of sites to block
China has partially lifted its block on foreign internet sites.

The BBC's Chinese Online Service says the websites for the American television news networks CNN and NBC, and the Washington Post newspaper, are now accessible from mainland China.

BBC News Online
Voice of America
Amnesty International
Washington Post
However, sites for BBC News Online, Voice of America and Amnesty International are still unavailable.

There has been no official announcement about the move, but the lifting is believed to be connected to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum taking place in Shanghai.

A journalist from the Voice of America complained at a news conference at the forum on Wednesday that he was not able to access his organisation's website.

The Chinese authorities said there was a technical problem, and since then some sites have become available.

Routine restrictions

China routinely blocks websites of Western media outlets, human rights groups, Tibetan exiles and other sources of information it deems politically sensitive or harmful.

Chinese teenagers
Surfers can access blocked sites via alternative routes
The State Council Information Office is mandated to regulate the internet but it is thought the Chinese security agencies are influential over the sites deemed unsuitable.

But Western media have long been puzzled by inconsistencies in their choices.

Many news organisations' home pages are blocked yet their material can be accessed in China via sites such as Yahoo.

Sometimes sites, such as the New York Times a few weeks ago, become available for a while for no discernible reason.

It highlights the difficulties China faces as it tries to promote the internet for commercial purposes while trying to control political content.

Internet use has boomed in China - the number of users doubled in the first eight months of 2000 to 16.9 million.

But last year, China introduced strict new guidelines to try to control the kind of material published on the internet.

See also:

13 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese website creator goes on trial
29 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
China moves to control internet
02 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
China cracks down on internet cafes
20 Jan 99 | Asia-Pacific
Prison for China Net dissident
29 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Can governments control the internet?
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