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China Blocks Internet in Urumqi

China kicked into high censorship mode yesterday by shutting down Internet access in Urumqi, the capitol of the northwestern region of Xinjiang, in an effort to control the flow of information stemming from Sunday's bloody riots. Many Urumqi residents were told that access would be denied for 48 hours, while others have confirmed with Reuters that Internet has indeed been cut off. Outside the region, China residents have not been able to gain access to websites related to Urumqi and Xinjiang regional governments.

The censorship doesn't stop there. Other reports indicate that users in Beijing and Shanghai are complaining that Twitter has been blocked, and that searches in Fanfou.com produced no results when entering "Urumqi," "Xinjiang" and "Uighur."  However, despite the government's effort to control information related to the riots, China has been unable to keep everything contained. Many unverified images claiming to be taken during the riot have appeared online, only to quickly disappear.

Despite the restrictions, many users have found their way online, and have expressed anger towards the incident. However, those too have fallen under China's heavy hand, especially those comments relating to the violence in Xinjiang. China fears that comments will spark ethnic hatred or provoke questions in regards to government policies toward "regions populated by ethnic minorities." On some sites, comments regarding the "unrest" in Urumqi were removed by late Sunday afternoon, replaced with the words "this posting does not exist."

According to Reuters, the government is blaming Sunday's riots on exiled Muslim separatists. China has previously block communications in portions of Tibet during a period of "ethnic unrest," or when the government feared that ethnic unrest would erupt.