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December 16th 2010
Published: December 16th 2010
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Uh oh. A couple of websites were blocked again. We would enter the URL but get nothing but a 404 page

This happens from time to time in China and I knew that going in. For example, Facebook is blocked, so is You Tube and IMDB. Presumably, this is to restrict me from watching videos of kittens playing with yarn, playing Farmville or watching trailers for "Dumb and Dumber". Luckily, there are workarounds, so I can still update my all-important Facebook status anytime I want.

I know that I am a guest here in China and I am fully aware that there are certain subjects that are better left unmentioned. I must not ever mention the exiled leader of a certain mountainous country to the south. I must never mention an island nation just east of here (still claimed by the mainland and known for their unusual blood type). In addition, I must never comment on an outlawed religious cult that clutters up the sidewalk right in front of the Chinese Consulate. I don't care about them anyway. I have no god in this fight.

But this latest silliness has even me rolling my eyes.

An incarcerated Chinese person (who must remain nameless) has won a prestigious prize in a northern European country known mainly for fish balls. He-who-shall-remain-nameless won this prize because of, well, it doesn't really matter. The government here is royally pissed about it and their way of tossing a turd into the punchbowl is to block everyone from reading the news posted on a couple of popular websites: the BBC and CNN. They didn't block everyone else, just those two. While that was going on, we simply got our news by reading other news sites. Doh!

Most Chinese do not care about this issue one way or another. Hell, most do not even read English and are preoccupied with looking for a better deal on noodles. But what my esteemed hosts failed to anticipate was the forbidden fruit aspect of the news item, or lack thereof.

Meanwhile, the news sites that cater to expats are chattering away about the BBC and CNN websites being blocked. When an expat's favorite websites get blocked, the expats start squawking. They also post the URLs for the same sites, but URLs that are not blocked so anybody and everybody had unfettered access to the news that nobody really cared about beforehand.

To make matters worse, the powers that be are trying to ensure that no Chinese citizens of importance attend the awards ceremony. In what was a inspired stroke of cluelessness, the powers-that-beijing decided to prohibit their intellectuals from traveling abroad for any reason; an educational conference in Singapore, for example. We wouldn't want them transferring to a flight to Scandinavia, now would we?

Everything is back to normal now. As normal as this wacky place ever is. China: the place where you are guaranteed to have at least one "What the...?" moment every day.

And therefore, never send to whom the know bell tolls; it tolls for thee.


16th December 2010

No news on the IAR's? The powers-that-beijing are blocking that too?
18th December 2010

Can you get into trouble for logging into things like Facebook or is it just at the ISP level?
18th December 2010

Quite a few of the Expats use a VPN solely for Facebook.
19th December 2010

Loved the links in the story. OK, where on earth did you find a map of Formosa?
21st December 2010

Hiding in plain sight
Cultural censorship. I'm working on the strange gap in US history between 1492 and the Pilgrims of 1620. Turns out lots happened, Europeans got to half of what would be the 48 US states, great adventures -- but not starring English people. Now we got a good one for the Chinese -- eventually they will be proud. Just more fun material for us cultural historians Love your posts. Happy Christmas from the new small is beautiful again Jerry Brown California

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