China is no stranger to Internet censorship. The country’s Great Firewall includes many well known sites, but up until now BitTorrent sites have never been blocked.
There was a short blocking incident two years ago when Mininova, isoHunt and The Pirate Bay were hijacked and redirected to the leading Chinese search engine, Baidu. However, this issue was solved in a matter of days without an official explanation.
In the years that followed the Chinese government mainly targeted local BitTorrent sites, leaving the previously mentioned sites unharmed. According to reports from isoHunt’s owner Gary Fung, this tolerant stance might have changed as visits from China to isoHunt have plunged dramatically.
The drop in traffic is so significant that any technical difficulties have to be ruled out. Last Saturday, isoHunt had only 1,349 visitors from China compared to 131,362 the week before, a massive 99% decrease.
Despite the signs that this ban of isoHunt is intentional, there hasn’t been any official word from the Chinese authorities on the situation. Whether it has anything to do with the recent P2P site crackdown in China, where the authorities shut down hundreds of local sites including some of the biggest BitTorrent trackers, is unknown.
IsoHunt owner Gary Fung told TorrentFreak that he recommends that Chinese users who want to continue using the site should access it through a foreign proxy. Gary said that China was never a huge source of traffic for his site, but sees the ban as a “big deal” for the ongoing net censorship debate.
Although China’s authorities are not known for their democratic principles, speaking out against the ban might help. “China has flipflopped between site bans, so putting on pressure and people voicing opinions do matter,” Gary added, referring to China’s previous banning and unbanning of websites such as Wikipedia.
The Pirate Bay, BTjunkie and all the other major foreign BitTorrent sites are unaffected and remain accessible in China. For now.
Update: We learned that The Pirate Bay is blocked in at least some parts of China as well.