BEIJING (AP) — Limited Internet services slowly began to return to far western China on Tuesday, almost six months after ethnic rioting led the government to shut down Web and phone links to the outside world.
Residents of the Xinjiang region on Tuesday could access Web sites for the state-run Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, and other Internet, text messaging and international calling services will slowly resume, according to a notice on the Web site of the Xinjiang government.
The change comes to “satisfy economic needs and to make daily life more convenient for everyone,” Xinhua said of the notice.
A woman from the press center of Xinjiang government confirmed the statement in Xinhua’s report. Like most Chinese government officials, she refused to give her name.
The Xinjiang government site, however, was unavailable Tuesday afternoon.
The mass shutdown came after rioting July 5 between Xinjiang’s native Uighur minority and the majority Han Chinese. It was China’s worst communal violence in decades. The Chinese government said nearly 200 people, mostly Han, were killed.
The government blamed the violence on overseas groups agitating for broader rights for Uighurs in Xinjiang, though the groups denied it.
Without direct international access, people in Xinjiang have had to find creative approaches to reach the outside world. An article this month in Science magazine described researchers for the Chinese Academy of Sciences relying on express mail or travel to other parts of China to get online.
“My wife and I have had to sit here and endure a frustrating feeling that we are now living in the Stone Ages,” one Xinjiang-based blogger, an American named Josh Summers, posted earlier this month. He wrote that ways around the shutdown remained, but he didn’t give details.
The government notice posted Monday said the shutdown came immediately after the July rioting, in order to calm the situation, Xinhua reported Tuesday.
Many Uighurs resent Beijing’s heavy-handed rule in Xinjiang, and ethnic tensions there occasionally turn violent. China says it respects minority rights and has spent billions on boosting living standards there.