China blocks citizens' access to WikiLeaks website

Whistle-blower joins Facebook, Twitter and YouTube on list of sites inaccessible behind China's firewall.

December 1, 2010 13:05
1 minute read.
A leading blogger and critic of China's internet c

google china 311. (photo credit: AP)

BEIJING— China, one of the biggest Internet policers, took no chances with the latest online sensation and blocked the WikiLeaks website Wednesday amid potentially embarrassing claims made in leaked US diplomatic cables posted there.

Attempts to access and were met with a notice Wednesday saying the connection had been reset, or diverted the user to popular Chinese search engine Baidu. That's the standard response when the connection to an overseas-based website has been cut.

It wasn't immediately clear what the authorities would find offensive, although the US Embassy memos contain some frank talk about and attributed to Chinese figures and their North Korean allies.

In one, former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is quoted in a conversation with Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg last year describing North Korea's government as psychopathic, and leader Kim Jong Il as a "flabby old chap" who "prances around stadiums seeking adulation."

In another, a Chinese diplomat is quoted describing North Korea as a "spoiled child" for attempting to win US attention with a provocative missile test.

The leaks also claimed that China's Politburo directed a cyber intrusion into Google's computer systems, and expressed concern over attempts by Iranian front companies to obtain Chinese nuclear technology.

It wasn't clear when the blocks were imposed, although a vast swath of the Internet is inaccessible behind China's firewall, including social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Human rights and political dissent-themed sites are also routinely banned, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called "Great Firewall" with proxy servers or other alternatives.

China's government has taken a low-key approach to the leaks, with the Foreign Ministry saying it would not comment on specific assertions in the cables.

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