China appears to have blocked the official website of Prime Minister Narendra Modi even though it allows the official website of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to be accessed in all its major provinces.
China is known to heavily regulate and censor domestic internet usage and actively blocks any websites or links that are seen as going against the narrative of the communist party or perceived interest of the nation. The combination of all such regulatory or technological censorship is often termed The Great Firewall of China.
It is one of the most successful internet censorship programs in the world, which restricts the access to internet sites in the People’s Republic of China. A large number of foreign websites, predominantly media and social media portals, and search engines, are blocked in China using various tools and protocols used by the censorship program run by the Communist Party government.
There are publicly available tools on the internet that tells if a particular website or URL is blocked in China or not. They are popularly known as the great Chinese firewall tests. Amid the increased tension between India and China following the aggression by China at the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, we conducted this test on the official websites of Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, and found that while Rahul Gandhi’s website was ‘passed’ by the Great Firewall of China, Narendra Modi’s website was shown blocked.
This can be confirmed by the website chinafirewalltest, a tool that informs whether a website is blocked by China or not. While testing the narendramodi.in site, it informs that “No servers were able to reach your site. This means that your site is most likely NOT accessible from within mainland China.”
But when the URL for Rahul Gandhi’s website, rahulgandhi.in is entered into the field to test, it is shown as accessible from all servers in China. It may be noted that both websites have .in as top level domains.
Another online tool used to check Chinese censorship on internet sites also returns the same result. The Chinese Firewall Test tool available on the viewdns.info website shows that the narendramodi.in can’t be accessed from China. “This could indicate DNS poisoning by the Great Firewall of China”, the tool informs. DNS poisoning a common method used by the Chinese government to block access to websites.
When the same test is repeated for Rahul Gandhi’s website, this tool also informs that all servers were able to reach the site, and this means that the site should be accessible from within mainland China.
These two popular tools confirm that while the personal website of Indian PM Narendra Modi has been blocked by China using its censorship tool, no such action has been taken against the site of Lok Sabha MP Rahul Gandhi.
The Great Firewall of China targets not only foreign websites, but also Chinese sites and platforms that are allowed to operate in the country. Contents and keywords considered unacceptable by the govt are routinely blocked from websites and social media platforms. For example, all references to the Tiananmen Square massacre are effectively blocked and removed by the censorship tools.
And these tools have now seemed to have blocked India’s versions on the LAC conflict too. According to reports, Indian embassy officials in Beijing have informed that PM Modi’s speech to chief ministers on June 18, and the comments by the spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry have been deleted from accounts of the Embassy on Chinese social media platforms, including Weibo. Weibo is a microblogging platform in China similar to Twitter, which is banned in the country. The content was removed from the embassy’s account on WeChat also.
It is noteworthy that the Congress party maintains a close association with the ruling Communist Party in China. In in 2008, the Congress party and the Communist Party of China (CPC) had signed a deal in Beijing for exchanging high-level information and co-operation between them. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) also provided the two parties with the “opportunity to consult each other on important bilateral, regional and international developments”.
Interestingly, the MoU was signed by the then Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and on the Chinese side, it was signed by none other than Xi Jinping himself, who was then the Chinese vice-president and standing committee member of the CPC’s politburo. The MoU was signed in the presence of his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi.
Moreover, during the Indo-China standoff on the Doklam issue, Rahul Gandhi had met Chinese officials multiple times. His meeting with Chinese officials during his Kailash Mansarovar visit in 2018 was kept secret, but later he had revealed it accidentally during a speech in 2019.