It’s quite a spectacle, replete with helicopter flyovers, marching bands, a ceremonial flag raising, and a parade of boats along Hong Kong harbor.
What has caught my attention, though, is the difference in television coverage. I am flipping between three television channels, the Chinese language CCTV 4, the English language CCTV 9 (both controlled by Beijing) and CNN.
The two mainland channels have emphasized several things, noting how China has left Hong Kong largely alone under its “one country, two systems” policy. They’ve also focused on Hong Kong’s continued economic vibrancy.
Their commentators are focusing on the need for social harmony and stability in Hong Kong, a theme picked up by President Hu Jintao, who is speaking on TV now as part of the ceremonies, suggesting that the former colony should be patient in its moves toward direct elections.
“Its democracy is growing in an orderly way,” Hu just said.
Earlier, I was tuned in to CNN. The anchor was standing on a rooftop in Kowloon interviewing Joseph Cheng, a political scientist, when BLEEP! The screen went black. As usual when CNN touched on a touchy topic for Beijing like democracy, the Chinese censors went to work, inking out CNN on the mainland.
That alone says a lot about the continued stark differences between Hong Kong and the mainland. It is not infrequent that I’ll be watching CNN or the BBC and the screen will go blank when a China story comes on.
My neighbor in the building where our office is in Beijing, a Canadian, occasionally pops in to complain about his copy of the International Herald Tribune that he buys at the Friendship Store across the street. Sometimes entire pages have been cut out. Invariably, they are pages with articles or editorials that China's censors find embarrassing to the country. So they get out the scissors.
Item: As of last week, this blog and all other blogs on the www.typepad.com website are blocked in China. Why? It's impossible to say. But China is nervous about relaxing its grip on the flow of information too much as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing approach. So leaders squeeze with one hand, even as they lighten up the pressure with the other.