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Hong Kong and the censors' scissors

Hkhandover I’m back in Beijing watching the live television coverage this morning of the ceremonies marking the decade since Britain handed back Hong Kong to China.

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.

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Comments

J Voltz

Excellent post. I enjoyed reading your blog and the posts I thought it was very interesting and will return

Raj

Oriental Girl: Are you strong?

Indian Boy: Do you mean me or my race?

DOD Boy: We are going to war.

Indian Boy: Do you mean Middle East or India?

Hispanic Boy: Do you want to fight?

Indian Boy: Do you mean me or my race?

Lillian

Thank God, I'm still lucky enough to access this blog.

Jeremy

Why are we hearing no international outcry from CNN et al about this censorship, or are they just more happy with the revenue that the Chinese market brings in than they are upset with the censorship?

I'm already ticked off at Google and Yahoo for their complicity in the censorship of information in China, please don't add CNN to the list.

Frankly, I hope the 2008 Olympics builds a critical mass in China, with an influx of information that the Chinese people have been censored from, and I hope that sparks either radical change from the top, or a massive grassroots campaign from the populace.

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Tom

"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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