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Survey of blocked Uyghur websites shows Xinjiang still cut off from the world, says RSF

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has surveyed access to websites dedicated to the Uyghur community, including sites in the Uyghur language, in Mandarin and sometimes in English. These sites, operated for Uyghurs, are for the most part inaccessible both to Internet users based in Xinjiang and those abroad. More than 85 per cent of the surveyed sites were blocked, censored or otherwise unreachable.

"The discrimination to which Uyghurs have been subjected for decades as regards their freedom of expression and their religious and economic freedom now applies to their Internet access as well," Reporters Without Borders said. "Four months after the violence in Urumqi, the Chinese authorities continue to keep the province cut off from the rest of the world. We must not be duped by the illusion of normality. Most Uyghurs still cannot go online, send SMS messages or even make phone calls."

The press freedom organisation added: "The official reason given for this blackout, that 'terrorists used the Internet and SMS messaging,' is unacceptable. Do the Pakistani or Afghan authorities suspend the Internet because terrorists send e-mail messages? No. The Chinese government seems more interested in preventing Xinjiang's inhabitants from circulating information about the real situation in the province, especially about the crackdown after the July riots."

Reporters Without Borders urges the authorities to restore Internet and phone connections in Xinjiang without delay. "The dozens of websites in the Uyghur language and websites about Xinjiang that have been closed must be allowed to reopen and those who edit them must have freedom of movement," the organisation added.

Carried out in October, the survey examined around 100 Uyghur websites, portals, forums, blogs and other kinds of online platforms. Various factors were considered, such as the country in which the site was based, the type of site (such as forum or blog), the type of content (such as news, politics, culture or sport), the language, and the problems encountered when the attempt was made to visit the site (such as change of address, overly long delay in opening or error message).

The results highlight the degree of paralysis of the Uyghur Internet during the past four months. The more than 85 per cent of the sites that were inaccessible include very popular ones such as Diyarim ( ), Xabnam ( ) and Ulinix ( ), a site registered in the name of the University of Xinjiang that serves as a portal.

Read the complete survey

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