China has quietly unblocked IMDb (Internet Movie Database), a popular Web site carrying information about movies, more than three years after the site was banned by the government.
The move triggered both cheer and confusion among online users in the country, with many believing this would herald more changes in China's "Great Firewall", the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Thursday. The Chinese government blocks access to various sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among others. Last year, it blocked the Web site of the New York Times, after the newspaper reported on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's US$2.7 billion family wealth, the report said.
Both English and Chinese language versions of IMDb were blocked by China in January 2010. No official explanation was given at the time, although many said it was due to information deemed politically sensitive to local authorities. Its homepage had featured a preview of "When the dragon swallowed the sun", a documentary about the Free Tibet movement led by the Dalai Lama, the SCMP report said.
Amid the online debate, some netizens pointed to the timing of the move. The report noted that the National People's Congress (NPC) and People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) are currently holding their annual legislative meetings in Beijing.
The report cited several online users. "Thank you, China's new leaders, this is wonderful," a user said on Sina Weibo, the local equivalent of Twitter. A blogger asked: "What's next? Facebook or Twitter?" However, another blogger said: "Don't have any expectations for the censors. Unblocking a movie site means nothing."
A separate report by AFP said the Chinese authorities had displayed mixed signals regarding media censorship in recent months. Last month, the state's media regulator, State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), said it would expand pre-broadcast censorship to cover television documentaries. However, the U.S. movie, "V for Vendetta"--about an anarchist uprising against a totalitarian government in Britain--was aired on state television shortly before Christmas, the report said.