"Unafraid" of Internet, China appears to block YouTube

China is not afraid of the Internet, its Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, even as access to the popular video sharing site YouTube appeared to be blocked.

YouTube has been unavailable for users in China, which filters the Internet for content critical of Communist Party rule, since late on Monday.

"Many people have a false impression that the Chinese government fears the Internet. In fact it is just the opposite," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

Qin said China's 300 million Internet users and 100 million blogs showed that "China's internet is open enough, but also needs to be regulated by law in order to prevent the spread of harmful information and for national security."

He said he did not know about YouTube being blocked.

Access to YouTube had been spotty earlier in March, the one-year anniversary of widespread protests by Tibetans against Chinese rule.

An Internet crackdown that began in January has closed hundreds of Chinese sites, including a popular blog hosting site and several sites popular with Tibetans.

It has been described by analysts as another step in the Party's battle to stifle dissent in a year of sensitive anniversaries, including the 20th anniversary of the government's bloody crackdown on the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.