China blocks Instagram as it looks to censor Hong Kong protests

The Chinese government appears to have blocked access to Instagram on the Chinese mainland, in an effort to censor images from the pro-democracy demonstration occurring in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's central business district has seen demonstrations by thousands of protesters over changes to the political system that will see citizens only able to vote on candidates pre-approved by Beijing.

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Opponents of the measure claim that the new policy makes a mockery of elections.

China is perceived by many to implement an excessive censorship policy, with the government blocking access to sites including Facebook, Twitter and various sites run by Google. Instagram was one of the few social networks that had avoided censorship until the government's recent intervention.

Instagram users began sharing images of the protest on the social network accompanied by the hashtag #OccupyCentral, leading the Chinese government to take down the site. Website monitoring services such as blockedinchina.net and greatfire.org have also confirmed that mainland China cannot access the site.

Over the past few days, the Hong Kong police forces have had to intensify their efforts to control the protesters. According to the BBC, riot police were deployed last Sunday, using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds.

Due to its special administrative laws, the mainland block placed on Instagram does not actually affect users located within Hong Kong itself.

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However, the decision to block the social network makes it clear that the Chinese government does not want reports of the demonstrations to reach the mainland.