After 312 days of heavily restricted internet in Xinjiang – that’s 53 short of an entire year – it appears as if internet access has finally been restored.
Residents of Xinjiang woke up from a 10-month nightmare this morning to find that their computers could finally connect to the world wide web. Previously only a select few websites could be accessed from within the province, mostly news related and all of which were Chinese-operated (see time line below for details).
The restrictions began on July 6th, 2009, a day after thousands of people filled the streets of Urumqi in anger and protest. Official numbers put the death toll at 197 with nearly 2,000 others injured.
It’s not exactly clear what, if any, restrictions still apply but programs such as proxies and VPNs which yesterday were ineffective can now be used. Gmail and chat programs are available. Updates will be made to this article the more I find out all the details.
Update 5/14: The Xinjiang government has set up a phone and email hotline for internet users to report “harmful” misuse of the web. Article from Tianshannet. Also, the government has issued a letter thanking residents for their understanding and patience while promising them a more “harmonious future”.
Update 5/15: The New York Times wrote a great piece describing how many residents took off work or school to rush to internet cafes and catch up on all their months of unread emails. I believe it! Read the article here.
Important Note: Reuters has published a misleading article declaring that “China restored full internet access”. When they say “full”, they really means that residents of Xinjiang can see what anybody else in China can see – which is censored by what has been termed the “Great Firewall”.
Time Line of Internet Restoration
- July 5th: Riots fill the streets of Urumqi
- July 6th: Internet, text messaging and international calling are cut throughout the province (Read more about these internet restrictions)
- December 28th: Access restored to the People’s Daily and Xinhua News sites
- January 10th: Sina and Sohu, two popular Chinese portals are restored in a very limited capacity
- January 17th: Text messaging restored but limited to 20/day
- January 20th: International calling capabilities are restored, although at first one had to jump through a few hoops
- February 5th: 31 more websites are restored, including many Chinese news, travel, and business sites
- February 10th: Emailing is finally allowed again, albeit only through Sina.com.cn and any users cannot send or receive attachments
- March 8th: Xinjiang official announces that Xinjiang will “soon be back online” during the annual National People’s Congress
- March 22nd: Email users of Sina can now send and receive attachments
- April 24th: Wang Lequan, leader of the Xinjiang province for over 15 years, is replaced by Zhang Chunxian, former Party leader in Hunan.
- May 14th: Xinjiang internet is restored, hopefully for the long run.