China blacks out Nobel TV broadcasts

Local media silent on Liu Xiaobo Peace Prize win

BUSAN, South Korea -- China’s government on Friday blocked all media coverage of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, keeping the world's largest television and online audiences in the dark about one of its most prestigious honors.

State-controlled media such as China Central Television, along with Nasdaq-listed websites Sina, Sohu and Netease, carried no news of the award other than a brief report from the Xinhua news agency quoting a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman saying the award “profanes the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Chinese censors scrambled TV news stories about Liu’s award from overseas broadcasters such as CNN, the Korean Broadcasting System and the BBC, companies whose signals normally only ever reach luxury hotels and housing compounds catering mostly to expatriates and wealthy Chinese living in the country’s biggest cities.

Chinese television reaches 95% of the nation’s population of 1.3 billion. As of June, China had 420 million Internet users, a group larger than the combined populations of South Korea, France and the United States.

Despite Beijing’s attempts to keep the news quiet, within hours of the announcement of the award of $1.5 million dollars from the Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway, Chinese government-monitored microblogs like Sina.com, which regularly blocks searches for Liu’s name, saw users generate nearly 6,000 comments.

Liu, a hunger striker during the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square, was arrested two years ago for drafting Charter 08, which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China. Liu, 54, is serving 11 years in prison 300 miles from Beijing.

Previous Nobel Peace laureates include former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, who got the award in 2000 “for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular." Last year, the prize went to Barack Obama, the current president of the United States.

Obama on Friday called upon China, now the world’s number two economy, to free Liu “as soon as possible,” saying that political reforms in China had not kept pace with its economic growth.
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