January 23, 2013, 5:51 AM — Access to software collaboration site GitHub appeared to be restored in China on Wednesday, just as former Google executive Kai-Fu lee criticized its blocking as a senseless move that would harm the nation's developers.
GitHub, a U.S. site known as a repository for open source code, had been at least partially blocked in China as early as last Thursday, with access completely cut on Monday. But it was unclear why government censors had targeted the site, with speculation pointing to GitHub's links to Chinese online train ticket buying plugins, which authorities have been trying to regulate.
Starting on Wednesday, however, China's censors had unblocked the site, according to Internet monitoring group GreatFire.org. But access to the sites have been slow and sometimes infrequent, caused by local Domain Name System (DNS) servers caching the earlier blocked results, GreatFire.org said in an email.
GitHub, which had also noticing the initial blocking, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Other foreign sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have long been blocked in China for their potential to spread anti-government views and information. At times, Google services and LinkedIn have also seen their access slowed or temporarily cut.
But the blocking of GitHub gained greater attention in the country after the former head of Google's China operations and celebrity Kai-Fu Lee posted about it on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
"GitHub is the preferred tool for programmers to learn and connect with the rest of the world," he said in his Chinese-language post. He added that the site supported no political ideology, nor contained any reactionary content. "Blocking GitHub is unjustifiable, and will only derail the nation's programmers from the world, while bringing about a loss in competitiveness and insight."
Lee's post was re-tweeted over 80,000 times on Sina Weibo, and featured in news articles on Wednesday. In another post, he later compared the blocking to trying to catch a mouse by burning the entire house down.