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China unbans the Beeb

English language news available for first time

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The BBC's English language news website is available in China for the first time.

The Register received reports late last week that former restrictions had been lifted, but the BBC was unable to confirm the news.

The blocking of BBC sites was always intermittent in China - if you had good political connections you could access it, or if you knew your way around a proxy server service. The Chinese government never confirmed such a ban even existed, and some sites would become available for a short time before disappearing again.

But in times of controversy - as with the current situation in Tibet - the ban was more widely applied. China blocks all content from some websites based on their address while other content is filtered by keyword.

The BBC told us today: "We're pleased to be able to confirm that the English language version of the BBC News site is now accessible in China. Traffic levels are going up and BBC staff have confirmed that they can access it from across the country. It would seem though, for now at least, that the firewall remains in place for Chinese language services on the website and for links in Chinese."

Steve Herrmann, Editor of BBC News Online, said: "Obviously we regard this as very welcome news - we want BBC News to be as accessible in China as anywhere else in the world. We will endeavour to continue working with the Chinese authorities to improve our access in other areas."

Chinese forums suggest the site is now available across most of the country. Other sites including the Guardian are also now available, but Wikipedia and YouTube are still blocked.

Posters suggest the change could be linked to the Olympics - and China's desire to improve its international image. ®

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