- Censorship in the People's Republic of China
This article is about censorship in the People's Republic of China. For censorship in the Republic of China (Taiwan), see Censorship in the Republic of China.
Part of a series on Censorship By country
See also Freedom of speech by country
Internet censorship by country
Censorship in the People's Republic of China (PRC) is implemented or mandated by the PRC's ruling party, the Communist Party of China (CPC). The special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have their own legal systems and are largely self-governing, so these censorship policies do not apply there.
Notable censored subjects include but are not limited to, democracy, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Falun Gong, Tibetan independence, Taiwan independence, corruption, police brutality, anarchism, disparity of wealth, food safety, pornography, news sources that report on these issues, religious content, and many other websites.
Censored media include essentially all capable of reaching a wide audience including television, print media, radio, film, theater, text messaging, instant messaging, video games, literature and the Internet. Chinese officials have access to uncensored information via an internal document system.
Reporters Without Borders ranks China's press situation as "very serious", the worst ranking on their five-point scale. China's Internet censorship policy is labeled as "pervasive" by the OpenNet Initiative's global Internet filtering map, also the worst ranking used. Freedom House ranks the press there as "not free", the worst ranking, saying that "state control over the news media in China is achieved through a complex combination of party monitoring of news content, legal restrictions on journalists, and financial incentives for self-censorship."
- 1 Subject matter and agenda
- 2 Media, communication and education controls
- 3 Self-censorship
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Subject matter and agenda
Censorship in the PRC encompasses a wide range of subject matter. The agendas behind such censorship are varied; some are stated outright by the Chinese government itself and some are surmised by observers inside and out of the country.
According to the South China Morning Post, the Chinese government issues orders on a regular basis to 'guide' coverage of individual sensitive issues. Media organisations thus submit to self-censorship, or run the risk of being closed down.
Censorship in China is largely seen as a measure to maintain the rule of the Communist Party of China. Censorship helps prevent unapproved reformist, separatist, "counter-revolutionary", or religious ideas, peaceful or otherwise, from organizing themselves and spreading. Additionally, censorship prevents Chinese citizens from discovering or learning more about past and current failures of the Communist Party that could create or inflame anti-government sentiment. Measures such as the blocking of foreign governments' websites may also be intended to prevent citizens from learning about alternative systems of governance and demanding similar systems.
In the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, the government allegedly issued guidelines to the local media for reporting during the Games: political issues not directly related to the games were to be downplayed: topics such as Pro-Tibetan independence and East Turkestan movements and food safety issues such as "cancer-causing mineral water" were not to be reported on. As the 2008 Chinese milk scandal broke in September 2008, some western media evoked suspicions that China's desire for a perfect games may have been a factor contributing towards the delayed recall of contaminated infant formula, which has given more than 50,000 babies kidney stones and killed at least 4 infants although the Central government denied this.
On 13 February 2009, Li Dongdong, a deputy chief of the General Administration of Press and Publication, announced the introduction of a series of rules and regulations to strengthen oversight and administration of news professionals and reporting activities. The regulations would include a "full database of people who engage in unhealthy professional conduct" who would be excluded from engaging in news reporting and editing work. Although the controls were ostensibly to "resolutely halt fake news", it was criticized by Li Datong, editor at the China Youth Daily who was dismissed for criticizing state censorship. Li Datong said "There really is a problem with fake reporting and reporters, but there are already plenty of ways to deal with that." Reuters said that although Communist Party's Propaganda Department micro-manages what newspapers and other media do and do not report, the government remains concerned about unrest amid the economic slowdown and the 20th anniversary of the pro-democracy protests in 1989.
In January 2011, Boxun revealed that Politburo member responsible for the Propaganda Department, Li Changchun, issued instructions for the Chinese media to downplay social tensions on issues such as land prices, political reform and major disasters or incidents, and to ensure reporting does not show the Communist party negatively. The Party warned that media must “ensure that the party and government do not become the targets or focus of criticism”, and any mention of political reforms must reflect the government in a favourable light.
People who have power, they can cover up the sky.
The PRC has historically sought to use censorship to mould or protect the country's culture. During the Cultural Revolution, foreign literature and art forms, religious works and symbols, and even artifacts of ancient Chinese culture were deemed "reactionary" and became targets for destruction by teams of Red Guard.
Although much greater cultural freedom exists in China today, continuing crackdowns on pornography, the 2006 banning of foreign cartoons from Chinese prime time TV, and limits on screenings for foreign films could be seen as a continuation of cultural-minded censorship.
Usually, this type of censorship is mainly used to prevent political conflicts from happening within the social environment. Usually, people are allowed to talk about politics on the internet, but certain websites containing anti-government material would be blocked. Some censorship in China has been justified as upholding proper morals. This includes limitations on pornography, particularly extreme pornography, and violence in films.
A number of religious texts, publications, and materials are banned or have their distributions artificially limited in the PRC. Foreign citizens are also prohibited from proselytizing in China, and information concerning the treatment of some religious groups is also tightly controlled.
The Falun Gong spiritual movement is subject to suppression in China, and virtually all religious texts, publications, and websites relating to the group have been banned, along with information on the imprisonment or torture of followers.
Christian Bibles are allowed to be printed in China but only in limited numbers and through a single press.
In 2007, anticipating the coming "Year of the Pig" in the Chinese calendar, depictions of pigs were banned from CCTV "to avoid conflicts with ethnic minorities". This is believed to refer to China's population of 20 million Muslims (to whom pigs are considered "unclean").
In recent years, censorship in China has been accused of being used not only for political protectionism but also for economic protectionism.
In February 2007, the website of the French organization Observatoire International des Crises was banned in the PRC after it posted an article on the risks of trading with China.
"How do you assess an investment opportunity if no reliable information about social tension, corruption or local trade unions is available? This case of censorship, affecting a very specialised site with solely French-language content, shows the [Chinese] government attaches as much importance to the censorship of economic data as political content," the organization was quoted as saying.
Furthermore, the official ban on most foreign films hardly affect Chinese citizens; such films can easily be acquired in copyright-infringing formats, allowing Chinese to view such films to be financially accessible while keeping their money within the domestic economy.
Tsinghua University professor Patrick Chovanec has speculated that the Chinese ban on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube may have been done in part to grant a business advantage to the websites' Chinese competitors. Similarly, China has been accused of using a double standard in attacking Google for "obscene" content that is also present on Chinese competitor Baidu.
The 2D version of the blockbuster film Avatar was also reportedly pulled from screens in the country for taking in too much money and seizing market share from domestic films.
Media, communication and education controls
On the twentieth anniversary of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, the mainland media came under tremendous pressure from authorities. Ming Pao reported on the Publicity Department's "hitherto unimaginable extent" of pressure to screen out any related content. The journal reported two incidents in 2008 which caused official concern, but which could not be proven to be deliberate challenges: Beijing News published an image of an injured persons being taken to the hospital on 4 June; Southern Metropolis Daily reported on unusual weather in Guangdong province with the headline of "4 storms in June," which both journals insisted were due to carelessness. Some newspapers have therefore instructed their editors to refrain from using the numbers '6' and '4' in their reports during this sensitive period. Furthermore, the numbers cannot be used in the headlines lest the Publicity Department disapproved. 
TelevisionMain article: Television in the People's Republic of ChinaMain article: Television programme censorship in the People's Republic of China
Foreign and Hong Kong news broadcasts in mainland China from TVB, CNN International, BBC World Service, and Bloomberg Television are occasionally censored by being "blacked out" during controversial segments. It is reported that CNN has made an arrangement that allowed their signal to pass through a Chinese-controlled satellite. Chinese authorities have been able to censor CNN segments at any time in this way. CNN's broadcasts are not widely available throughout China, but rather only in certain diplomatic compounds, hotels, and apartment blocks.
Numerous content which have been blacked out has included references to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the Dalai Lama, the death of Zhao Ziyang, the 2008 Tibetan unrest, the 2008 Chinese milk scandal and negative developments about the Beijing Olympics.
During the Summer Olympics in Beijing all Chinese TV stations were ordered to delay live broadcasts by 10 seconds, a policy that was designed to give censors time to react in case free-Tibet demonstrators or others staged political protests. In January 2009, during a television report of the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, the state-run China Central Television abruptly cut away from its coverage of Obama's address when he spoke of how "earlier generations faced down fascism and communism.". On November 16, 2009, Obama hosted a "town hall" event in China, and commented, "I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticizing me all the time. ...But the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear. It forces me to examine what I'm doing."
Like Internet censorship, enforcement in television censorship is increasingly ineffective and difficult because of satellite signal hacking systems which give direct access to channels and programs on any satellite that services the Asian Pacific region.
FilmSee also: Banned films, China
China has a large diversity of different foreign films broadcasted through the media and sold in markets. China has no motion picture rating system, and films must therefore be deemed suitable for all audiences to be allowed to screen.
For foreign-made films, this sometimes means controversial footage must be cut before such films can play in Chinese cinemas. Examples include the deletion of scenes showing hanging laundry in Shanghai during Mission: Impossible III, the removal of a reference to the Cold War in Casino Royale, and the omission of footage containing Chow Yun-fat that "vilifies and humiliates the Chinese" in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Prior to the 2008 Summer Olympics, the PRC administration announced that "wronged spirits and violent ghosts, monsters, demons, and other inhuman portrayals" were banned from audio visual content.
Regardless, Chinese censors still clear only twenty foreign films a year to show within the country. Despite this, almost all internationally released foreign films are freely available in Chinese and English language versions through the counterfeit trade in DVDs.
All audio visual works dealing with "serious topics" such as the Cultural Revolution must be registered before distribution on the mainland. Films by PRC nationals cannot be submitted to foreign film festivals without government approval.
China's state-run General Administration of Press and Publication (新闻出版总署) screens all Chinese literature that are intended to be sold on the open market. The GAPP has the legal authority to screen, censor, and ban any print, electronic, or Internet publication in China. Because all publishers in China are required to be licensed by the GAPP, that agency also has the power to deny people the right to publish, and completely shut down any publisher who fails to follow its dictates. Resultingly, the ratio of official-to-pirated books is said to be 40%:60%. According to a report in ZonaEuropa, there are more than 4,000 underground publishing factories around China. The Chinese government continues to hold public book burnings  on unapproved yet popular "spiritual pollution" literature, though critics claim this spotlight on individual titles only helps fuel booksales. Many new-generation Chinese authors who were the recipients of such government attention have been re-published in English and success in the western literary markets, namely Zhou Weihui of Shanghai Baby fame, Anchee Min and her controversial memoir Red Azalea, Time Magazine banned book covergirl Chun Sue (Beijing Doll) and "Candy" authoress Mian Mian.
The album Chinese Democracy by American rock band Guns N' Roses is banned in China, reportedly due to supposed criticism in its title track about the government and a reference to the Falun Gong. The government said through a state controlled newspaper that it "turns its spear point on China".
The album X by Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue was released as a 10-track edition of the album by EMI Records. The album got three tracks banned due to strict censorship in the People's Republic of China. The tracks that were omitted were "Nu-di-ty", "Speakerphone" and "Like a Drug".
InternetMain article: Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China
China's Internet censorship is regarded by many as the most pervasive and sophisticated in the world. According to a Harvard study, at least 18,000 websites are blocked from within the country. Banned sites have included YouTube, Facebook (from July 2009) and Flickr. Certain search engine terms are blocked as well, and 52 cyber dissidents are reportedly imprisoned in China for their online communications. Falun Gong and others have been working in the field of anti-censorship software development. More recently, through individual negotiations with the Chinese government, Wikipedia, Google and YouTube have been opened up for public viewing with certain restrictions for those who access these sites from within mainland China. Although China has opened up Google for public viewing, it is google.cn as opposed to google.com. This .cn Google follows China's set rules for what is allowed to be shown through a Google search. All versions of YouTube have been completely unavailable in China since April 2009.
Reporters in the western media have also suggested that China's internet censorship of foreign websites may also be a means of forcing mainland Chinese users to rely on China's own e-commerce industry, thus self-insulating their economy (for example censorship of large game sites such as newgrounds.com which have no political agenda). In 2011 although China-based users of many Google services such as Google+ did not always find the services entirely blocked, they were nonetheless throttled such that users could be expected to become frustrated with the frequent timeouts and switch to the faster, more reliable services of Chinese competitors.
Short Message Service
According to Reporters without Borders, China has over 2,800 Short Message Service (text messaging) surveillance centers. As of early 2010, cell phone users in Shanghai and Beijing risk having their text messaging service cut off if they are found to have sent "illegal or unhealthy" content.
In 2003, during the severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome (SARS) outbreak, a dozen Chinese were reportedly arrested for sending text messages about SARS. Skype reported that it was required to filter messages passing through its service for words like "Falun Gong" and "Dalai Lama" before being allowed to operate in China.
During protests over a proposed chemical plant in Xiamen during the summer of 2007, text messaging was blocked to prevent the rallying of more protesters.
In 2004, the Ministry of Culture set up a committee to screen imported online video games before they entered the Chinese market. It was stated that games with any of the following violations would be banned from importation:
- Violating basic principles of the Constitution
- Threatening national unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity
- Divulging state secrets
- Threatening state security
- Damaging the nation's glory
- Disturbing social order
- Infringing on others' legitimate rights
The State General Administration of Press and Publication and anti-porn and illegal publication offices have also played a role in screening games.
Examples of banned games have included:
- Hearts of Iron (for "distorting history and damaging China's sovereignty and territorial integrity")
- I.G.I.-2: Covert Strike (for "intentionally blackening China and the Chinese army's image")
- Command & Conquer: Generals – Zero Hour (for "smearing the image of China and the Chinese army")
As with films, piracy makes acquiring banned video games in China very easy.
Educational institutions within China have been accused of whitewashing PRC history by downplaying or avoiding mention of controversial historical events such as the Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
In 2005, customs officials in China seized a shipment of textbooks intended for a Japanese school because maps in the books depicted mainland China and Taiwan using different colors.
In a January 2006 issue of Freezing Point, a weekly supplement to the China Youth Daily, Zhongshan University professor Yuan Weishi published an article entitled "Modernization and History Textbooks" in which he criticized several middle school textbooks used in mainland China. In particular, he felt that depictions in the books of the Second Opium War avoided mention of Chinese diplomatic failures leading up to the war and that depictions of the Boxer Rebellion glossed over atrocities committed by the Boxer rebels. As a result of Yuan's article, Freezing Point was temporarily shut down and its editors were fired.
New Threads, a website for reporting academic misconduct in China such as plagiarism or fabrication of data, is banned in China.
A new standard world history textbook introduced in Shanghai high schools in 2006 supposedly omits several wars; it mentions Mao Zedong, founder of the PRC, only once.
Zhang Ming, the dean of political sciences at Renmin University of China, was fired on 16 March 2007 after complaining about academic freedom in China among other issues.
In the FRONTLINE, four students from Peking University are seemingly unable to identify the context of the infamous Tank Man photo from the 1989 unrest sparked by Peking University students, though possibly, the students were feigning ignorance so as not to upset the party official who was monitoring the interview with clipboard in hand. The segment implied that the subject is not addressed in Chinese schools.
Indeed, on 4 June 2007, a person was able to place a small ad in a newspaper in southwest China to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests reading "Paying tribute to the strong(-willed) mothers of 4 June victims". The accepting clerk claimed that he was ignorant of the event and believed that 4 June was the date of a mining disaster.
Although being independent from the mainland's legal system and hence censorship laws, some Hong Kong media have been accused of practicing self-censorship in order to exchange for permission to expand their media business into the mainland market and for greater journalistic access in the mainland too.
At the launch of a joint report published by the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) and "ARTICLE 19" in July 2001, the Chairman of the HKJA said: "More and more newspapers self-censor themselves because they are controlled by either a businessman with close ties to Beijing, or part of a large enterprise, which has financial interests over the border." For example, Robert Kuok, who has business interests all over Asia, has been criticized over the departures of several China desk staff in rapid succession since he acquired the South China Morning Post, namely the editorial pages editor Danny Gittings, Beijing correspondent Jasper Becker, and China pages editor Willy Lam. Lam, in particular departed after his reporting had been publicly criticized by Robert Kuok.
International corporations such as Google, Microsoft, MySpace, and Yahoo! voluntarily censor their content for Chinese markets in order to be allowed to do business in the country. In October 2008, Canadian research group Citizen Lab released a new report saying TOM's Chinese-language Skype software filtered sensitive words and then logged these, with users' information to a file on computer servers which were insecure. In September 2007, activists in China had already warned about the possibility that TOM's versions have or will have more trojan capability. Skype president Josh Silverman said it was "common knowledge" that Tom Online had "established procedures to meet local laws and regulations ... to monitor and block instant messages containing certain words deemed offensive by the Chinese authorities."
Even with the harsh censorship practices that exist in China, people find ways to bypass the restrictions. On the Internet, people use proxy websites that allow anonymous access to otherwise restricted websites, services, and information.
- Blocking of Wikipedia by the People's Republic of China
- Censorship in Hong Kong
- Freedom of religion in the People's Republic of China
- Human rights in the People's Republic of China
- Internal media of the People's Republic of China
- Internet censorship in the People's Republic of China
- Internet freedom
- Media of the People's Republic of China
- Propaganda in the People's Republic of China
- Radio jamming in China
- Sino-Japanese Journalist Exchange Agreement
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Censorship in Asia Sovereign
- Burma (Myanmar)
- People's Republic of China
- East Timor (Timor-Leste)
- North Korea
- South Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
States with limited
- Northern Cyprus
- Republic of China (Taiwan)
- South Ossetia
- Christmas Island
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands
- Hong Kong
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