China is blocking searches on Google and microblogs for the name of a Chinese city where protests have erupted against local authorities. The move is part of an effort to suppress information on the rioting.
Google searches in Chinese for Zengcheng, a city in the country’s Guangdong province, result in the browser’s connection to the server being reset, with no search results offered. Chinese authorities have also blocked searches for the city’s name on some of China’s most popular microblogs, including ones operated by Sina and Tencent.
The protests in Zengcheng began last week after security officers clashed with two migrants who were told to stop selling goods on the street. One of the migrants, who was pregnant, fell to the ground. The resulting rioting caused huge crowds of people to gather and fight with police, according to video footage posted online
The local Zengcheng government issued a statement on Monday telling residents to refrain from believing rumors and participating in the riots. Government officials state the pregnant woman is doing well. Riot police have also been sent in to quell the dissent.
Chinese authorities have always been sensitive to protests, and routinely block the Web for content perceived to be critical of the government. Websites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are inaccessible from within the country.
But starting this year, China’s censorship of the Internet has risen to new levels, according to analysts. This happened after an anonymous online call was made urging the Chinese people to hold a “Jasmine Revolution” against the government.
China reacted by blocking the term “Jasmine” from microblog searches. Google also reported Chinese authorities blocking access to Gmail, in what experts said was move to stop communication between human rights activists in the country.
China has applied similar Internet censoring methods to other protest movements. Last month, China blocked mention of Inner Mongolia from local microblogs and social networking sites following ethnic protests that occurred in the region. The country’s most popular instant messenger service QQ was also shut down in Inner Mongolia, according to a human rights group.
The country has also shown that its willing to take even more extreme measures to curb information on the Web. In 2009, the government pulled the plug on Internet access in China’s Xinjiang region for nearly six months. This came in reaction to deadly ethnic rioting that left nearly 200 dead.