Hong Kong's SCMP newspaper website blocked in China

The South China Morning Post website is no longer accessible in China.
The South China Morning Post website is no longer accessible in China. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - The website of the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper being bought by Internet giant Alibaba, has become inaccessible in China during a series of high-level government meetings in Beijing.

Attempts by AFP in China on Friday (March 11) to open the newspaper's English and Chinese-language websites returned only error messages saying that the pages could not be displayed.

The scmp.com website was blocked starting on March 3, according to the security website GreatFire.org, which monitors online censorship in China.

China's Communist Party oversees a vast censorship system - dubbed the Great Firewall - that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out Internet and TV content and commentary on topics considered sensitive, such as Beijing's human rights record and criticisms of the government.

Popular social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter are inaccessible in the country, as is Youtube.

Several Western news organisations have accused China of blocking access to their websites in the past, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters.

The SCMP's Chinese-language public account on WeChat, a popular chat app, was also inaccessible.

The paper's account on China's Twitter-like Weibo had also disappeared by Friday.

Alibaba's purchase of Hong Kong's South China Morning Post for $266 million (S$366 million), announced in December, has sparked fears the newspaper will lose its independent voice, in what analysts see as part of a gradual erosion of press freedoms after the semi-autonomous city was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.