China blocks N.Y. Times, Ming Pao

China has blocked access to the New York Times as part of what appears to be the rebuilding of its "Great Firewall" that prevents citizens from getting online news.

China has blocked access to the New York Times as part of what appears to be the rebuilding of its "Great Firewall" that prevents citizens from getting online news.

Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao and international sites such as Radio France International were also blocked as of Monday.

The New York Times announced Sunday that users in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou were unable to gain access to its website and instead got the standard message for a blocked site.

China relaxed its web censorship laws this summer as part of the conditions for hosting the 2008 Olympic Games.

However, the Great Firewall — a term used by critics of the website blockage — is preventing Chinese citizens from seeing international news sites, something that has been happening over the last six weeks.

Last week, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it was within its rights to block websites with content illegal under Chinese law.

"I hope the websites will practice self-restriction in terms of what they publish and that they do nothing that breaks the country's laws," Liu Jianchao told Agence France-Presse.

China considers news about Tibet, about democracy or articles critical of the Communist party to be illegal and also restricts sexual content.

BBC's Chinese website, Voice of America, Reporters Without Borders, Asiaweek and Radio France International have been blocked over the last six weeks. YouTube sites from Hong Kong and Taiwan are also inaccessible for Chinese viewers.

Since Nov. 5, China's internet cafés have been required to adopt China's Red Flag Linux operating system which allows for state surveillance of internet users.

"Freedom of information is widely violated in China," Reporters Without Borders said in a report last week.

"Right now, the authorities are gradually rolling back all the progress made in the run-up to this summer's Olympic Games, when even foreign websites in Mandarin were made accessible. The pretence of liberalization is now over."