After being completely shut down for nearly a year after a popular uprising in July 2009, the Internet service in China’s remote western Xinjiang Province was restored one day before the China-US Human Rights Dialogue on May 14. However, Xinjiang Internet users revealed that up to date personal communication is still being tightly controlled. And the nearly one-year long Internet block caused huge economic losses, according to human rights activist Hu Jun.
On July 5, 2009, as residents in Xinjiang’s Urumqi City protested, Chinese authorities sent military police to suppress the protest. Although the regime’s media officially reported only 140 deaths and over 800 injuries, according to unofficial sources, thousands were killed.
Recently Xinjiang residents have complained online that although they are able to log onto the Internet, popular instant messenger tools such as Tencent’s QQ are still blocked. Tencent has collaborated with the regime and ignores users’ complaints; some email tools do not function, either.
One college student in Xinjiang stated that the reason for the Internet shutdown is due to the July 5 Incident: “Blocking the Internet is to prevent information from spreading.” One Internet cafe owner told a reporter from Sound of Hope Radio: “The Internet shutdown was imposed by the government due to the July 5 incident. It has had a very large impact.”
“Most Internet cafes were all closed, and many businesses cannot function, such as Internet transactions with China and overseas, etc. Business needs the Internet for banking, money transactions, sales and contracts. The loss to business cannot be measured,” said Hu Jun, a human rights activist in Xinjiang.
Hu posited that the re-opening of the Internet was only for the sake of appearances, and in preparation for the China-U.S. human rights dialogue, “The Internet was opened just before the dialogue. Internet freedom is a human beings’ basic right. Without the right to communicate, to speak, what’s the difference between humans and animals?”
Hu Jun also said that since the July 5 uprising in Urumqi last year, the Chinese authorities shut down the Internet to cover up the truth. “The detailed situation of the uprising was not published at all, because the authorities do not want people to know about the crimes they committed, just like they’ve handled what happened at Tiananmen on June 4, 1989. Some unofficial information that was circulated show soldiers beating people and the standoff between policemen and citizens, including women, children and Han people. Both Uyghur and Han people are dissatisfied with the government. They want to voice their anger and protest against the government.”