More websites back online in Urumqi

By Cui Jia (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-08 07:41
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URUMQI: Authorities in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have restored partial access to 27 Internet sites, including the China Daily website, that had been blocked following last July's deadly riot in the regional capital of Urumqi.

"We chose the 27 websites because all of them are very practical and popular in China," Hou Hanmin, spokesperson of the regional government, told China Daily yesterday.

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She said the regional government is preparing to restore access to more websites in the near future, but no fixed date has been set for the full restoration of Internet services in Xinjiang, because it will be "a step-by-step process".

To prevent further unrest after last year's July 5 riot in Urumqi, which left 197 dead and 1,700 injured, the government blocked access to the Internet and suspended international calls and text message services in the region 24 hours after the riot, because they were believed to be vital tools used to instigate the incident.

The regional government began to progressively lift the ban on the Internet in December by allowing access to a couple of official websites. International phone calls and mobile phone text messaging services were recently reinstalled, though people can only send 20 messages a day.

However, Hou told China Daily yesterday that the regional government is considering increasing the daily allowance for the number of text messages that a mobile user could send because "many people are complaining that 20 messages a day won't be enough to send Spring Festival greetings to relatives and friends".

Beside websites providing news services, popular online shopping and trading websites as well as air ticket booking websites are also on the list of the latest websites returned to Xinjiang.

But full access to the websites has not been restored. Xinjiang residents are only allowed to view the contents of online discussion forums of two official media: People's Daily newspaper and Xinhua News Agency, but they are not able to leave comments or visit forums on other websites.

Xinjiang Internet users also cannot use email or blog services of the websites.

Some people are frustrated by the partial restoration of the websites.

"I can browse to look at the online shopping items, but I cannot make a purchase because I wasn't allowed to log on to my account. So what's the point of resuming the online shopping site?" said Cheng Lina, an Urumqi resident in her 30s.

"Without email and blogs, I cannot communicate with people, which is the purpose of the Internet. Only receiving information is definitely not enough for me," said 25-year-old Wu Fei from Hotan. "What we have now is a paralyzed Internet. I hope it gets well soon."

Activities on the Internet and the content of text messages will be closely monitored by authorities, the regional government said earlier.

Three people have already been caught for spreading rumors and illegal content via text messages in Xinjiang, two weeks after the service was restored, according to local portal