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Urumqi longing to be reconnected to online world

[ 2009-07-16 11:41]     字号 [] [] []  
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Almost two weeks after Xinjiang's deadliest riot in decades, most Urumqi residents feel secure again after tension has eased significantly in the city.

Now, for many in the autonomous region, another big step toward normality will come when the local government unblocks the Internet so they can go back online.

"No Internet in Xinjiang, no business for me," said Li Fenfa, an Urumqi resident who runs an online business selling dry fruit. Li has seen no transactions for several days.

Online businesses have been among the hardest hit since authorities cut access to the Internet in most of the Xinjiang region following the July 5 violence. The riot took the lives of almost 200 people.

Many online store owners have had to rely on friends in other parts of the country to post messages on their homepages telling potential buyers that business is on hold until after the Internet lockdown.

Professor Chen Lidan, a communications scholar at the Beijing-based Renmin University of China, said the government had blocked online access because that was the way instigators of the riots spread their messages and mobilized rioters.

Investigators believe overseas separatist groups used Internet tools including Tencent QQ and MSN, as well as social networking sites Twitter, Facebook and Xiaonei, to spread messages.

The Xinjiang government said it terminated Internet access to prevent the spread of the violence. Up to now, the only known public venue where the Internet could be found was the Hoi Tak Hotel, which was used as a base by reporters covering the riot's aftermath.

Some Web users have complained that their attempts to access Twitter and Facebook in other Chinese cities have also been unsuccessful. And Chinese portals, including Fanfou, which is similar to Twitter, have also been unavailable.

The government has not yet given a date when the services will resume.

Internet experts are now concerned that an extended "indistinctive Internet lockdown" may create new dilemmas for the government.

"The authorities probably think they are justified to cut off Internet on national security grounds, so they openly admitted it for the first time," said Hu Yong, a new media expert with the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University.

But the lockdown has inevitably curtailed harmless Web activities, such as daily forums, information sharing and online shopping.

"Time after time, young Web users may grow doubts over the government's Internet policies, which will produce more profound impacts," Hu said.

China's young, whose daily lives often rotate around the Web, make up a large percentage of China's 300-million cyber population. They will "get discouraged" if they find their Internet space getting smaller, experts said.

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Urumqi longing to be reconnected to online world

About the broadcaster:

Urumqi longing to be reconnected to online world

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.