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Opera has sealed the hole its Mini browser tunneled through the Great Firewall of China.

With the international version of Opera Mini - the company's Java-based mobile browser - Chinese users had found a way of freeing themselves from local net filters, accessing sites otherwise banned by the government. The browser shuttles all net traffic through compression servers located outside the country, and naturally, those servers lack Chinese filters.

But on Friday, as reported by the BBC's Beijing bureau, Opera switched all Chinese users from Mini's international version to a Chinese version that uses local compression servers - and local filters.

Chinese Opera users, the BBC says, no longer have access to Facebook.

Opera confirmed the move with The Reg. "The difference between the Chinese and the international versions is that the former connects to compression servers within China while the latter connects to servers outside China," the company said in a canned statement.

"In more direct terms, this means that users of Opera Mini in China are using Opera's servers in China to fetch, compress, and process the Web pages before they are returned to the mobile phone."

The company would not discuss the reasons for the change. But we're assuming the decision wasn't made on its own. Opera did confirm that Chinese users have no choice in the matter. They must "upgrade" to the Chinese version and use the local proxy servers.

Opera says Mini has 35 million users worldwide but it's unclear how many of those users are in China. ®

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