The New York Times’ flagship English and Chinese-language websites are already blocked in China — now, the Times’ latest hope for avoiding the wrath of censors there may have suffered a setback. Portions of the Chinese-language site of T Magazine, the Times‘ lifestyle publication, have been inaccessible in Mainland China since the afternoon of Nov. 13, Beijing time.
Problems accessing the site first came to light when social media users complained on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging platform, where T Magazine maintains an active presence. A Nov. 13 test using the servers of Greatfirewallofchina.org, a site that tests web addresses for accessibility behind China’s so-called Great Firewall, found that T Magazine’s Chinese site is “most likely NOT accessible” from the Mainland. A Tea Leaf Nation contributor in Beijing said that while she was able to access the magazine’s front page without the aid of a virtual private network, articles she clicked on would not load.
It is unclear why T Magazine’s Chinese-language site is not currently accessible from the Mainland; it could be censorship, or merely a glitch. A spokesperson for the New York Times told FP via phone that the publication is “aware there is an issue” with site accessibility, but is still investigating the cause.
If there’s a block, it’s impossible to say how long it will last. Beijing does not officially admit the existence of the Great Firewall, publish a list of blocked sites, or officially confirm or deny what it has censored. However, the timing is suspicious, falling soon after a Nov. 8 New York Times report stating that Bloomberg News editors spiked two stories likely to be offensive to Chinese authorities, one detailing financial links between a Chinese tycoon and some of China’s top leaders. (Bloomberg has denied the allegations.)
T Magazine has been a source of optimism for a news organization that had run afoul of Chinese censors before. The T Magazine Chinese-language site launched Oct. 10, 2013, about 10 months after Chinese authorities blocked both the English and Chinese language sites of the New York Times, likely in retaliation for the outlet’s Oct. 2012 story about possible corruption associated with family members of then-Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. T Magazine’s Chinese language site does not publish stories about politics, economics, or foreign policy, focusing instead on less controversial topics like fashion, design, education, and real estate. The day of the launch, the Times thought it possible the T Magazine site could, according to the Wall Street Journal, “pave the way for the unblocking of the publication’s English and Chinese news websites” in Mainland China.
The New York Times is not alone among international media in its struggle with Chinese censorship. The Chinese-language site of the Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post is intermittently blocked in the Mainland. Bloomberg’s news sites were blocked in China after the service ran a June 2012 story about the wealth of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s extended family. On July 17, censors deleted the official Weibo account of Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest newspaper. Time will tell whether the Great Firewall has just added another brick.