Improved Web access still falls shy of pledge

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2008, 12:00am

China Central Television reporter Chai Jing was given perhaps the hardest story in Beijing yesterday.

Editors sent Chai and her cameraman to the main Games press centre in the Olympic Village to ask fellow journalists what they thought of the unprecedented internet access - or otherwise - granted to them.

The first subject of her vox pop was the South China Morning Post, which last week revealed many websites had been blocked despite long-held promises by the International Olympic Committee and the mainland authorities that this would not happen.

'What do you think of the new free internet? Can you visit the websites you want?' she asked.

'We can access more sites than we could last Tuesday,' she was told as this reporter logged onto the Web trying to read about yesterday's attack in Xinjiang . 'But we still can't access many others. It was not what was promised. But it's a great improvement.'

The BBC's English website and its Chinese site, previously barred, remain open, if slow to load - as does the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily. But write Falun Gong, Free Tibet and the dissident website Boxun, among others, in a search window and the screen offers the same, cold response it has since the opening of the press centre.

Chai said she was aware of the issue. 'I know this story from The New York Times and The Times [of London],' she said.

As a young journalist in fast-changing China, would she like to see all websites open? 'There is a line and there is Chinese law. Nobody can change the law easily,' she said.

'Of course the Olympics will change us. It has already. Every day I think: 'Wow - it's amazing'... To be here with the other media, to share the same stage, is great.'

German journalist Christian Zaschke from the Suddeutsche Zeitung said: 'I think the [greater Web access] allows me to learn more about the world, and how we can change step by step.'


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