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Are Beijing ISPs Cutting Internet in Run-Up to China Leadership Handover?

This morning we’ve spotted some interesting reports from a few of Twitter’s Beijing denizens: internet connections are acting weird. For example, Jeremiah of Jottings from the Granite Studio and Rectifed.name reports that his ISP (Great Wall Broadband) is planning to just shut down for a few weeks:

And NPR’s Louisa Lim writes:

Most people, it seems, are still connecting with no problem and haven’t gotten any weird notifications from their ISPs. But another Beijing friend did says that his internet is impossible to use this morning and his VPN wasn’t functioning either. And some China-based redditors yesterday complained that generally-available (if throttled) Google services like Gmail have stopped functioning.

Is this another internet crackdown in progress? It’s too early to say yet, and it’s important to stress that right now this appears to only be the case for a few people. Please do not re-blog this with the headline “Chinese Government Disconnects Internet!” The speculation is that the ISPs (perhaps at the direction of the government, perhaps not) could be battening down the hatches in preparation for the 18th Party Congress, during which China’s current leaders will step down to make way for the new generation of leaders.

Cutting off the web would be an extreme reaction, but a shutdown of major websites and ISPs during a major political event wouldn’t be unprecedented. June 4th — the anniversary of the government’s bloody crackdown on Tiananmen protesters in 1989 — is referred to jokingly by some net users as “Internet maintenance day” due to the fact that many websites and services seem to pick that particular day each year for scheduled maintenance. And following the Xinjiang riots, internet access in that province was severely curtailed for months. Since the government seems to be taking security insanely seriously this go-round, it’s not unreasonable to suspect they might take steps to lock down the internet a bit, too.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine a total shutdown of the internet could really be in the cards. If nothing else, the economic losses of taking even Beijing off the grid for a week or two would be massive. And that’s before you even take into account what millions of angry weibo addicts are going to do to fill their time if they can’t access the web at all.

So how about it, Beijing-based readers? Has your internet been acting funny recently? Gotten any strange notifications from your ISP? Let us know what you’re seeing in the comments.

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