You might have heard that the “restrictions” on media and communications in Xinjiang are slowly but surely being “restored.” Well, it seems like that’s a bit too optimistic: First, the ban on SMS services was lifted, but according to Far West China, you can only send twenty messages a day. In addition, you can also make international calls as of today, and access to the internet is slowly being unblocked: as of now, there’s a grand total of four websites you can access, and it seems even those are fairly censored.
In their latest blog post, Far West China has a very interesting juxtaposition of the two major internet portals that just reopened, Sohu and Sina, in Xinjiang and outside of it. It’s pretty confusing to see the apparent censorship in effect, especially since the graphic design of the Xinjiang versions differs so much from the regular mainland versions. Here’s the breakdown in Josh’s own words:
From Far West China:
It’s a completely different website hosting the exact same material. I notice a couple things right off the bat:
* There are no ads
* There is no place to “sign in”
* There is no Search capability
* The option for different languages is absent in Xinjiang
In a way I’m thankful for the simplicity, a stark contrast to the somewhat wild Chinese web design I am used to. The absence of ads feels odd, albeit in a nice sort of way. After looking over these changes multiple times, though, I am left with two very puzzling questions:
1. Why is this renovation necessary?
2. Why is all media, including western media, calling this a “restoration”?
We guess that the term “restored” works in the sense that the internet and texting isn’t completely blocked anymore, but since the services are a mere shell of what they were before the Xinjiang riots, we’d probably use the term “severely regulated,” or “partially resurrected.” Still, it’s confounding that something like advertisements would be banned from a censored site, or that content (and the ability to access it) seems very cautiously selected. We wonder what site will be unblocked and severely regulated next: maybe a Youku with no access to copyrighted content?
Photo from Far West China