A significant number of western news outlets have found their websites blocked in China in recent days as the Communist regime there steps up their censorship programme in an effort to control all information the people of China can access.
Late last week, internet users began to report that the websites of a host of major news outlets from across the western world had become unavailable.
Which sites are now blocked in China?
Those publications affected by the latest bout of online censorship include the Guardian.
In recent months, they have published a slew of articles criticising the Communist regime in China over its human rights, in particular highlighting their incarceration of millions Uighur Muslims in concentration camps in the East Turkestan/Xinjiang region.
Major American newspaper the Washington Post has also been blocked. They have been a loud voice on press freedom in recent times, but their willingness to take money to publish pullouts from Chinese state news outlets which publish regime propaganda has led to criticism that they are in the pocket of Beijing.
It will be interesting to see if they continue these publications in light of the fact they are now blocked in China.
Other affected sites including American network NBC News, the Australian news outlets The Age and News.com.au, the Huffington Post, the Toronto Star, and Japanese outlet Asahi Shinbum.
The Financial Times (£) is also reporting that Communist Party censors have turned on a number of independent financial websites and blogs in light on the ongoing trade war between China and the USA.
They report that at least ten popular financial sites have had their content wiped from Chinese social media outlet WeChat while a number of other outlets which have taken a more balanced view on the conflict have also been removed.
This censorship has come at a time when anti-American propaganda has gone into overdrive in China, where the effects of the trade war are already starting to be felt.
The affected news sites all became unavailable just ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre when Communist forces slaughtered tens of thousands of democracy activists in Beijing.
It is possible that these blocks could only be temporary. The Communist regime rarely comments on the reasons behind its decision to block access to specific content. But The Tiananmen Square anniversary was on 4th June and more than a week later, all of the sites remain unavailable.
It could be that international coverage of the massive protests in Hong Kong against plans to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to Communist China could be a reason why the block continues.
But last August, the ABC website was blocked in China under similar circumstances and access to that site has never been restored. As a result, most observers and internet users in China are expecting these latest blocks to be permanent.
Many of the newly affected outlets will have seen access to specific articles being blocked in China before. Chinese censors use keywords to try and block all coverage of specific events and if the Guardian ever published articles containing these words, those articles would be unavailable.
But the decision to block the entire site is obviously a political move and one which means access to independent information and news is now even harder in China than it was before.
How to unblock these sites with a VPN
For Chinese internet users, the best way to unblock these newly censored sites is to use a VPN. The Chinese regime has banned the use of VPNs and attempted to block access to any VPNs that it does not control.
But there are still a number of VPNs that continue to be accessible behind China’s Great Firewall. These include the likes of ExpressVPN and 12VPN which have employed different techniques to obfuscate their service and stay online in China.
If you want to get around Chinese censorship, VPNs such as these remain the best option although Chinese internet users should be aware that there could be repercussions if the Communist authorities find you using them.
Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, online rights in China have diminished to almost zero. While this latest round of censorship could be temporary, few believe it is, and the likelihood is that things are only going to get worse rather than better.
If you want to access the internet in China without being under constant surveillance or subject to the most comprehensive online censorship programme anywhere on earth, your only option is to use a VPN.