Foreign bloggers across China enthusiastically greeted the recent de-blocking of BBC News, but the key to the story was that the Chinese language service was still blocked. Now even the Chinese site is available in once city.
As a rule, internet censorship in China is more stringent when content appears in Chinese. The assumed reasoning is that, while many Chinese internet users can read English, Chinese language sources, especially produced by something like the BBC or Voice of America, are more likely to be blocked. It's also a common and somewhat reasonable assumption that people who already know how to get around internet restrictions are more educated and therefore more likely to have had English education.
But reports are now coming out of Xi'an, a major city in east-central China, that even the Chinese language service is accessible.
The blog Zhongnanhai reports that Xi'an is sometimes and indication of un-blocks to come. And while the site is indeed still blocked for me in Beijing, we'll have to keep our eyes open.
This does not mean that the whole site will necessarily be available. Keyword blocking will still likely stop certain transmissions with sensitive terms, such as those about the recent events in the Himalayan region beginning with a T. But this is one more indication that full IP or URL blocking of entire sites may soon be mostly a thing of the past.
I'm just waiting for Flickr to come back to full operation so that I can share my photos from recent Beijing life and my trip to Japan with friends in China.