China has banned the websites of The Washington Post and The Guardian amid a government crackdown on information surrounding the politically sensitive 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4th, according to the Post - which notes that the two websites were among "the last few major English-language outlets that were still regularly accessible from mainland China" without using a VPN.
As we noted last week, Chinese social media sites were placed on lockdown ahead of the anniversary, as messing app WeChat and micro-blogging site Weibo prevented users from changing their personal information, including profile photos. Another Chinese platform - video sharing website Bilibili, said that it suspended real-time comments and other features for "technical upgrades."
All but the most oblique references to the incident were immediately scrubbed, and, during the days around the anniversary, users complained about not even being able to access the function to change their avatars.
Every language edition of Wikipedia was fully banned in mid-May. A CNN reporter said the network’s website was blocked again this week shortly after CNN.com ran a top story commemorating the 1989 event. -Washington Post
Beijing rarely divulges their reasoning for blocking various websites, and it's unclear whether the Post and Guardian bans are permanent. If past behavior is any indicator, they're toast.
Reacting to the crackdown, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Monday statement: "the Chinese Communist Party leadership sent tanks into Tiananmen Square to violently repress demonstrations calling for democracy, human rights and an end to rampant corruption," adding "China’s one-party state tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights whenever it serves its interests."
Powered by machine learning, China uses extensive censorship software known as "The Great Firewall" to block over 10,000 web domains, and sniff out Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which allow Chinese people to circumvent the restrictions. As we noted in March, Google is helping Beijing by banning ads for VPNs in China.
According to Beijing, their censorship efforts maintain the country's "Internet sovereignty," with officials touting the Great Firewall as a model that should be adopted by other governments.