CNN censored as number of police move against Internet and a small demonstration in Beijing.
BEIJING – China has censored most media coverage of the Arab world’s popular revolt of the last few weeks and on Monday bleeped out a CNN segment hinting at a possible link between Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” and a brief gathering in Beijing that was broken up by police over the weekend.
As authoritarian governments fell in Tunis and in Cairo in Egypt -- and others began to shake in the face of widespread protests in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Algeria – China’s one-party government in Beijing has tightened its longstanding dictate that nationwide media be centrally controlled.
While censorship of Chinese language TV is not new, the extent to which Beijing appeared fearful that news of change in North Africa and the Middle East might prompt a Chinese movement reached even cable networks broadcasting only in English and only inside China’s luxury hotels.
Not long after 8:30 am. Monday local time, the CNN feed reaching the gym of a downtown five-star hotel went black as commentator Gordon Chang started to talk about a call on Sunday on Chinese social networking websites for people to gather at 13 places nationwide.
Indeed, a shopping in a popular Beijing street less than a kilometer from the seat of the government in Tiananmen Square, was briefly confused by hundreds of people gathered in front of McDonald’s only to find themselves outnumbered by foreign journalists and police tipped to their assembly by Chinese micro-blog Weibo.
“Beijing’s leaders were very concerned after calls for a Jasmine revolution…” Chang started to tell CNN from New York, but then the gym’s TV screen went black.
CNN switched back on 30 seconds later and a Hong Kong-based anchor bid Chang thanks and farewell, leaving at least one jogger in the U.S. hotel joint venture with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wondering what had been said.
The gathering CNN was referencing in the Beijing street turned out to be a non-event and wrapped up non-violently after about an hour. While waiting for something to happen there, American newspaper chain McClatchy’s Beijing correspondent Tom Lasseter, tweeted: "Watching large crowd of cameras following around the police, young woman in Dior sunglasses asked me if there was a celebrity or something.”
Helping to keep many Chinese in the dark about recent global events were the latest in a string of common directives issued by the central government to editors nationwide. One, on Jan. 28, from the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Public Security told all media: “For the disturbances in Egypt, media across the nation must use copy circulated from Xinhua,” the state-run news agency.
“Websites are to strengthen [monitoring] of posts, forums, blogs, and particularly posts on microblogs. Our bureaus will forcibly shut down websites that are lax in monitoring,” the directive said, according to a copy obtained by the Berkeley-based activist web site China Digital Times.