Chinese Censorship in Inner Mongolia Continues

Co-authored by Jane Abell.

In the wake of protests in a region of China known as Inner Mongolia, the Chinese government has begun censoring the search term “Inner Mongolia” on various microblogging and social networking websites, as well as blocking access to online communication platforms. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have reported that the protests, which began in early May of this year, began when an ethnic Mongolian was struck and killed by a Han truck driver. News coverage has tended to view the protests as an revolt against Han political and economic control; however, other sources believe it is better explained as Mongolian resistance to the Chinese government’s policy of development, which threatens the traditionally nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolian people.

Although reports have indicated that the protests are largely peaceful, the Chinese government has reacted to the unrest with an iron fist. According to Computer World, the government, is attempting to suppress the protests by blocking several search terms on the country’s two largest microblog services--Sina, with 140 million users, and Tencent, with 160 million users--as well as the social networking site Renren, which some have termed the “Facebook of China.” Search terms currently disabled include the names of several cities and regions where the protests are taking place, such as Inner Mongolia, Hohhot (????) and Ujimqin (???) .

In addition to search term blocking, the government has also have cracked down on other online methods of communication. Reporters without Borders reports that chatrooms, instant messaging programs and mobile Internet access are either inaccessible or slow enough to make using them nearly impossible. The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center has reported the blockage of the most popular IM service in China, QQ, which was an important organizational tool during the protests. Numerous other websites and programs have been disabled in the wake of the protests, including the Chinese search engine Baidu. Some sites are also being censored in a way that allows viewing of content but not commenting or posting.

Search term blocking and filtering of communication websites is consistent with China’s previous attempts to quiet provinces or regions where protests break out. In 2009, the Chinese government shut off Internet to the autonomous region of Xinjiang after riots broke out.