Page last updated at 08:57 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 09:57 UK

China restores Xinjiang internet

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Shanghai

Burned out bus in Urumqi, China 6/7/09
Internet access in Xinjiang was shut down after the July 2009 riots

China has restored access to the internet in the far western region of Xinjiang, ending 10 months of blocked or limited access.

The restrictions were imposed after ethnic violence between the Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese.

A total of 197 people died in riots which hit the region in July 2009.

The official news agency, Xinhua, said the riot was believed to have been orchestrated using the internet, text messages and long distance phone calls.

For months after the riot, Xinjiang's seven million internet users were unable to surf the web.

Those who needed to use it for business had to travel vast distances to neighbouring provinces just to get online.

In December the government said it was easing the restrictions but access to only two official news sites was restored.

Two other popular sites were unblocked in January, and email services resumed in March.

Now the government says internet services have "fully resumed" in Xinjiang although of course there, as everywhere else in mainland China, the web is carefully monitored and sites or material deemed sensitive are difficult to view or download.

China says it is restoring internet services because the situation in Xinjiang has stabilised.

It is certainly a sign that the authorities are more confident than they have been for months that they can keep order there.

The government's announcement included a warning though that anyone using the internet to spread harmful information would be punished severely.

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