Xinjiang 'isolated' by email, phone blocks
BEIJING — Residents in China's restive Xinjiang region
remain isolated from the outside world with long-lasting
Internet and phone cuts that have prompted some
businesses to relocate, locals said Saturday.
Emails are still blocked nearly four months after deadly
ethnic unrest erupted in the regional capital Urumqi, as
are text messages and international phone calls,
residents told AFP.
"Our business has been seriously affected, and we have
had to set up an office in Lanzhou (capital of
neighbouring Gansu province)," said the head of an
Urumqi-based firm, who asked to remain anonymous.
Xinjiang authorities "set up a green channel (for calls
and the Internet) for... trade companies in Xinjiang,
but it's not enough for us to handle business", he told
AFP by phone.
Riots erupted in Urumqi on July 5, leaving 197 people
dead, according to official figures, in the worst ethnic
violence in China in decades.
Authorities quickly reacted by restricting the flow of
information going in and out of the region, in one of
the biggest known Internet shutdowns anywhere.
The government says terrorists, separatists and
religious extremists used the Internet, telephones and
mobile text messages to spread rumours and hatred as the
July violence erupted in Urumqi.
But nearly four months later, residents in Xinjiang said
they still had very limited access to the Internet.
"Emails can't be sent and received, Internet can only be
used in Xinjiang and text messages can't be used," a
receptionist at a hotel in Kashgar, another big city in
the region, told AFP by phone.
One businessman in Urumqi, who also wished to remain
anonymous, said his company had not relocated but was
having to contact all clients by fax.
According to a blog by a 26-year-old American man living
in Xinjiang, Dunhuang city in neighbouring Gansu had
become a mecca for businessmen in Xinjiang.
"Pretty much the first city outside of Xinjiang with
Internet access, Dunhuang has become the place for all
businessmen and foreigners to go to regain access to
email and business contacts," he wrote in an October 19
"Hotels and coffee shops tell me they've seen a
noticeable increase in Xinjiang traffic."