Beijing appears to have taken a page out of Myanmar's playbook by blocking some Internet access amid rioting in Tibet that has already seen as many as 80 people killed, according to the Tibetan government in exile.
China has blocked access to Google News and YouTube in an apparent attempt to stop the spread of video footage related the rioting going on in several cities in Tibet, including the capital Lhasa. Demonstrations in the city started on March 10, a day commemorating the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule after which the spiritual leader of the country, the Dalai Lama, fled to India.
China has said the Dalai Lama is to blame for rioting in the country, and puts the civilian death toll at 13, while adding that police and security forces have also suffered casualties.
The Dalai Lama has denied involvement in the rioting, and said he has "no such power to stop it," in a video of a recent news conference posted on his Web site.
"Whether the Chinese government admits it or not, there is a problem," he said "The Tibetan nation, an ancient nation with an ancient cultural heritage, is actually dying."
China's decision to block access to the sites follows similar government censorship of protests by Myanmar. Last September, Myanmar cut off Internet access entirely to block people from viewing pictures and videos or sending them out of the country. Some analysts at the time said the protests likely spread through the help of the Web, in addition to winning global condemnation of the violent crackdown on protesters there.
Google said it is aware of reports of users being unable to access YouTube in China. "We are looking into the matter, and working to ensure that the service is restored as soon as possible," YouTube said in a statement.
"We believe that YouTube offers citizens the world over a vital window on their cultures and societies and that they should not be denied access to video information," the statement also said. Google did not address additional questions about its involvement in the block or its support of governments that limit access to the Internet. Google only commented on the blockage of YouTube without mentioning any problems with access to Google News in China.
Two videos about the situations in Tibet posted on YouTube by the user Amdo2007 both appear to show peaceful demonstrations. The first shows a public gathering, including Tibetan monks in their distinctive saffron robes, while the second video shows what appears to be peaceful marching.