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China blocks websites
Published on: 2009-06-03
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WASHINGTON (AFP) - China is blocking access to Microsoft's new search engine, Bing, and its Hotmail email service, the company said ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

"Microsoft's Bing.com, Live.com and Hotmail.com are among several Internet services that have been blocked for customers in China," Microsoft director of public affairs Kevin Kutz said in a statement received by AFP.

"We are reaching out to the government to understand this decision and find a way to move forward," Kutz said.

"Microsoft is committed to helping advance the free flow of information, and is committed to encouraging transparency, due process and rule of law when it comes to Internet governance," he added.

Microsoft did not say when China began blocking the sites, but Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it had been notified by Chinese Web users that access to the websites began being blocked inside China on Tuesday.

"Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the blockage of a dozen websites such as Twitter, YouTube, Bing, Flickr, Opera, Live, Wordpress and Blogger in China," the media rights group said in a statement.

"The Chinese government stops at nothing to silence what happened 20 years ago in Tiananmen Square," it said. "By blocking access to a dozen websites used daily by millions of Chinese citizens, the authorities have opted for censorship at any price rather than accept a debate about this event."

Asked to comment on the Chinese moves, a US State Department spokesman said there would be a more expansive US response on Wednesday, but underscored that US policy "supports freedom of expression."

"With regard to any activities that the Chinese government is undertaking in connection with the anniversary... we will have more to say (Wednesday) through a statement on the anniversary," spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.

"The issue of human rights is a very important element of our relationship with China," he added.

There was no immediate comment from Yahoo!, which owns photo-sharing site Flickr, or Twitter to emails from AFP asking about the reported blocking of their websites by China.

Google-owned YouTube has been blocked inside China since March.

Rights group Freedom House, which is funded by the US government and private groups, condemned the Chinese government?s blocking of the websites.

"China's decision to block these sites today represents the latest salvo in a relentless campaign to erase the past," executive director Jennifer Windsor said in a statement.

"China is blocking sites like Twitter and Flickr because they provide a means for people to circumvent government control and mobilize dissent."

China's foreign correspondents' association on Tuesday condemned moves by authorities in Beijing to block reporting in the run-up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC) said it had received at least three reports of authorities blocking reporting at Tiananmen Square and intimidating journalists or their sources.

The country's communist leadership sent soldiers to forcibly clear the square and surrounding areas on the night of June 3-4, 1989, ending seven weeks of protests calling for political reforms.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed in the crackdown, which remains a taboo subject in China.

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