Access to YouTube remains blocked for at least the third day in China after footage appeared on the site depicting Chinese police beating shackled Tibetan protesters following a demonstration last March.
Google spokesman Scott Rubin told InternetNews.com that it is still working to bring its video-sharing site back online and identify the cause of the outage.
The Chinese government has not admitted to shutting off access to the site, but it has called the videos “a lie.”
In a recent report, China’s Internet Network Information Center estimated that the country has nearly 300 million Internet users, giving it the largest online population of any nation in the world.
The block is the latest instance where access to sites like YouTube has been shut down in countries with checkered records on free speech. According to the Global Network Initiative, a multinational consortium of groups opposing Internet censorship, at least a dozen countries have blocked access to YouTube since 2007.
“In blocking YouTube, many governments are falling short of human rights principles in troubling ways,” the group said in response to the current situation in China. “Blocking not only impacts the right of people in that country to speak and access information, but also the right of the world to speak to people in the country imposing the block.”
The videos in question, released by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), show footage of last year’s riots in the capital of Lhasa, including the beatings of men in the robes worn by Buddhist monks.
The Chinese government alleges that the video is fraudulent. According to the state news agency Xinhua, an unnamed government official said that technology experts had determined that the video was doctored by the government-in-exile. The official said that the Dalai Lama’s group had spliced together video clips of different times showing different people, which the experts said were shot using different equipment.
CTA, sometimes called Tibet’s government-in-exile, has claimed that about 220 protesters were killed in last year’s uprising, more than 5,600 were arrested and that “more than 1,000 have simply disappeared.”
CTA combined the three videos into one seven-minute clip with voiceover narration, which is widely available outside of China. The video tells the story of Tendar, whom CTA claims was beaten and tortured to death by Chinese police in the uprising last March.
The video claims that Tendar was burned with cigarette butts, beaten with an electric baton and had a nail driven through his foot, and that he was denied basic care at a military hospital. Graphic scenes on an operating table purport to show a mortally wounded Tendar with gaping wounds and flesh rotting from neglect.
The official quoted in Xinhua claimed that the footage of the wounds was actually of someone else, and that Tendar had died of an illness while awaiting trial in police custody.
Contrary to CTA’s claims that Tendar was on his way to work and stopped to help a “lone Buddhist monk” being beaten by Chinese police, the Xinhua account describes Tendar as a rioter who attacked a policeman with a knife while part of the mob laying siege to a government office.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan national uprising, when tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed in an abortive revolt against Communist China. That uprising resulted in the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, fleeing into exile along with other high-ranking Tibetan officials.