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3/17/2008
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YouTube Blocked By China

The BBC, CNN, and Yahoo News Web sites have also been inaccessible in the region over the past few days following violence in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

China's crackdown on dissent in Tibet has spilled over to YouTube. Chinese authorities have blocked access to YouTube in an effort to limit coverage of violence in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Other online news sites have reportedly been blocked, too.

China has claimed sovereignty over Tibet for hundreds of years. Following a military invasion in 1950, Chinese Communist forces took control of Tibet in 1951, in accordance with an agreement with the Tibetan government. The current unrest in Tibet flared up after the March 10 anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising by Tibetan Buddhists protesting Chinese rule.

In a statement issued Friday, the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, called for Chinese leaders and Tibetans to avoid violence. "I am deeply concerned over the situation that has been developing in Tibet following peaceful protests in many parts of Tibet, including Lhasa, in recent days," he said. "These protests are a manifestation of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people under the present governance."

On Sunday, the Dalai Lama charged the Chinese government with pursuing "cultural genocide" against his followers.

At a news conference on Monday in Beijing, Qiangba Puncog, the Chinese government's chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, accused the Dalai Lama of conspiring to incite riots in Lhasa and expressed confidence that order would be restored.

Reporters Without Borders on Monday said that YouTube has been censored since March 16, after videos of street demonstrations in Lhasa were posted on the site. The press advocacy group also said that the BBC, CNN, and Yahoo News have been inaccessible over the past few days.

Reporters Without Borders also decried Chinese authorities' refusal to allow foreign correspondents into the country and the expulsion of some 25 journalists already there.

"The freedom of movement for foreign journalists had been one of the few positive developments ahead of the Olympic Games, but this is now being flouted by the Chinese government facing Tibetan protests," the press freedom group said. "Yet again the Chinese government is trampling on the promises it made linked to the Olympics and has [been] preparing the ground to crack down on the Tibetan revolt in the absence of witnesses."

Google had relatively little to say on the matter. "We understand there are reports of users being unable to access YouTube within the People's Republic of China," a company spokesperson said via e-mail. "We are looking into the matter and working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible."

YouTube has been blocked before by countries like Burma, Brazil, China, Iran, Morocco, Thailand, and Turkey. Last month, Pakistan's effort to censor the site for showing allegedly anti-Islamic material inadvertently disrupted access to the site around the globe.

While news about the uprisings has been censored from YouTube.cn (currently inaccessible from the United States) and various Chinese video-sharing sites, Reporters without Borders notes that "one can find news Web sites on which racist comments have been posted about Tibetans, calling for the murder of the 'separatists.' "

The top search result for "Tibet" on YouTube.com at the moment is a video titled "Tibet WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE a part of China." It comes with more than 32,000 comments in support of Chinese nationalism and against it.

On March 11, the United States removed China from its list of the world's worst human rights violators.

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