China blocks BBC website amid Hong Kong protests

China blocks BBC website amid Hong Kong protests

BEIJING - Agence France-Presse
China blocks BBC website amid Hong Kong protests

A still image taken from video filmed by Apple Daily shows several police officers standing near other officers appeared to be beating and kicking a handcuffed protester after dragging him to a dark corner next to a protest site in Hong Kong, Oct. 15. REUTERS Photo

The BBC's website was blocked in China Oct. 15, one day after a video of Hong Kong police beating and kicking a pro-democracy protester began circulating online.

The move appears to be the first time the British broadcaster's website has been completely blocked in China since December 2010, when it was inaccessible for days ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

The BBC's Chinese-language website has been blocked in China since it was launched in 1999, aside from a few months around the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"Extra censorship in mainland China today," the BBC's Asia bureau chief Jo Floto wrote in a Twitter posting Oct. 15, noting authorities also have a "usual practice of blacking out BBC World during Hong Kong reports."

Charlie Smith, a co-founder of the anti-censorship group, confirmed that the broadcaster's website was blocked in China on Oct. 15.

China's Communist Party oversees a vast censorship system that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out Internet and TV content and commentary on topics considered sensitive, such as Beijing's human rights record and criticisms of the government.

Beating video sparks outrage

The New York Times and Bloomberg have had their websites blocked in China since they published investigations in 2012 into the family wealth of former premier Wen Jiabao and President Xi Jinping respectively.

As pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong escalated late last month, online censors moved to block the photo-sharing app Instagram, which joined Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as popular social media platforms inaccessible in mainland China.

The blocking of BBC's website comes as a video of Hong Kong police beating a pro-democracy protester went viral on the Internet.

In the video, released by Hong Kong television network TVB, a group of six plainclothes officers are shown assaulting a handcuffed and unarmed protester for several minutes.

The footage sparked outrage and calls for prosecution from activists and lawmakers. Hong Kong's security chief said Wednesday that the accused officers had been "removed" from their posts.

TVB's website remains accessible in mainland China, although Chinese-language links to reports on the video have been blocked.

CNN's website was also not blocked Oct. 15, even though the Hong Kong police brutality video was the top item on the broadcaster's home page.