By Michael Kan, IDG News, Jan 29, 2011
China’s microblogs have blocked searches for the word “Egypt,” a sign that the Chinese government is trying to limit public knowledge of the political unrest occurring in the Middle East.
The blocking appeared to begin over the weekend on the Chinese Twitter-like services operated by Sina, Tencent and Sohu. Queries using the Chinese word for “Egypt” brought no results. “In accordance with the relevant laws, regulations and policies, the search result did not display,” said the response on the Sina microblogging site.
The English word for “Egypt,” however, is still searchable across the sites.
News of the antigovernment protests in Egypt has made its way to Chinese media outlets, although coverage has been limited to pictures and short articles with little mention of what brought about the political unrest. Protesters in Egypt have taken to the streets demanding the end to the rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who has led the country since 1981.
The Egyptian government has responded by shutting down the Internet in the country, a move that was seen as way to prevent the protesters from organizing.
China ordered similar measures in 2009 when deadly rioting erupted in the country’s western Xinjiang region. The government shut down the Internet across the region to halt the spread of the riots. Both Twitter and Facebook were also blocked, and have continued to be inaccessible from China. The county began restoring full Internet service in the region almost six month later after the rioting began.
The content on China’s microblogs have also been a target for the state censors. The country routinely blocks sites and removes content deemed politically sensitive from the Web. China has 63 million microblog users, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.