With an Internet provider, China Mobile Hong Kong, the separation – a kind of drop action – indicates a direct involvement of the telecommunications company. “A drop action is a specially configured element of a DNS firewall environment,” April said. “This is not something that the owner could have intentionally or accidentally configured.”
China Mobile Hong Kong, a branch of China Mobile, the state-owned Chinese company, declined to comment. Two other companies tested by the Times, SmarTone and Hutchison Telecommunications, which are controlled by local conglomerates, did not respond to requests for comment sent via email.
Users from PCCW, another local operator, told The Times that their access to the site was also blocked. A spokesman declined to comment.
While site blocking may at first glance be similar to mainland China censorship, the methods are very different from China’s sophisticated system.
At China Mobile, SmarTone and Hutchison, the process of associating a website address with the series of numbers a computer uses to look up has been interrupted. The practice would be like listing an incorrect number under someone’s name in a phone book. If you know the correct number for that person, you can still call them.
On the Chinese mainland, on the other hand, the hardware of the Great Firewall – as Beijing’s system of filters and blocks is known – actively separates connections. In the phonebook comparison, the call would not be forwarded even if you had the correct phone number.
The blockades in Hong Kong are “very easy to bypass and clumsy,” said Professor Tsui. Still, he said, authorities may not want to control the internet as tightly as Beijing for fear of deterring the global banks and international corporations that have made the city their Asian headquarters.