WikiLeaks website blocked behind Chinese firewall
BEIJING: China, one of the biggest Internet policers, took no chances with the latest online sensation and blocked the WikiLeaks website Wednesday amid potentially embarrassing claims made in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables posted there.
Attempts to access wikileaks.org and cablegate.wikileaks.org were met with a notice Wednesday saying the connection had been reset, or diverted the user to popular Chinese search engine Baidu. That's the standard response when the connection to an overseas-based website has been cut. It wasn't immediately clear what the authorities would find offensive, although the U.S. Embassy memos contain some frank talk about and attributed to Chinese figures and their North Korean allies.
In one, former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is quoted in a conversation with Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg last year describing North Korea's government as psychopathic, and leader Kim Jong Il as a "flabby old chap" who "prances around stadiums seeking adulation."
In another, a Chinese diplomat is quoted describing North Korea as a "spoiled child" for attempting to win U.S. attention with a provocative missile test.
The leaks also claimed that China's Politburo directed a cyber intrusion into Google's computer systems, and expressed concern over attempts by Iranian front companies to obtain Chinese nuclear technology.
It wasn't clear when the blocks were imposed, although a vast swath of the Internet is inaccessible behind China's firewall, including social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Human rights and political dissent-themed sites are also routinely banned, although technologically savvy users can easily jump the so-called "Great Firewall" with proxy servers or other alternatives.
China's government has taken a low-key approach to the leaks, with the Foreign Ministry saying it would not comment on specific assertions in the cables.
"China takes note of relevant reports. We hope the U.S. side will properly handle the relevant issue. As for the content of the documents, we do not comment on that," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Global Times, a provocative tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party mouthpiece Peoples Daily, labeled the disclosure a "nefarious slander against China.
It also questioned the U.S. government's perceived inability to block the posting of the leaks, saying it raised questions as to whether it had reached some form of tacit understanding with WikiLeaks. -Ap