How Chinese censorship is reaching overseas
October 28th, 2013
11:16 AM ET

How Chinese censorship is reaching overseas

By Sarah Cook, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Sarah Cook is a senior research analyst for East Asia at Freedom House and author of report The Long Shadow of Chinese Censorship, which was released October 22 by the National Endowment for Democracy’s Center for International Media Assistance. The views expressed are her own.

The efforts of China’s leaders to prevent its citizens from circulating information inconvenient to the ruling Communist Party are well known. But while censorship is a daily reality for media outlets inside mainland China, their counterparts abroad are increasingly finding themselves under pressure as well.

China’s leaders, it seems, have become more ambitious in their attempts to control the news.

Take last year, when reports surfaced that China’s ambassador to the United States met with Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief to try to persuade the outlet not to run a story about the finances of Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s family. Last May, meanwhile, popular Taiwanese talk show host Cheng Hung-yi resigned after station executives allegedly tried to stop his program from touching on topics sensitive to Beijing. And back in 2011, reportedly at Beijing’s urging, a court in Hanoi sentenced two Vietnamese citizens who practice Falun Gong to prison for transmitting radio broadcasts about human rights abuses and corruption from their farm to listeners in China.

These are far from the only examples of how the Chinese Communist Party’s media controls extend past China’s borders, in a push documented in a report published last week by the Center for International Media Assistance, which examines a range of media outlets based outside China, from major international media to local outlets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and elsewhere. And the findings are clear: the “China Factor” looms over newsrooms across the globe.

As the report notes, the pressure has sometimes been overt, with Chinese officials impeding independent reporting by barring foreign correspondents from the sites of significant incidents, pressuring senior executives not to publish content, or simply refusing to issue visas.

But more common – and arguably more effective – has been the carrot and stick approach that induces subtle self-censorship among media owners and outlets. Those perceived as friendly to Beijing might, for example, be rewarded with advertising, access to Chinese audiences, lucrative contracts for non-media enterprises, and even political appointments. Those deemed too critical can face not just visa restrictions for reporters, but lost advertising and blocked websites. As a result, some outlets have become increasingly wary over covering “hot button” issues such as the persecution of Tibetans, Uighurs and Falun Gong practitioners.

More from CNN: China 'employs 2 million to police internet'

Indirect pressure can also be applied via proxies, including advertisers, satellite firms, and foreign governments, with out-of-favor outlets likely to be boycotted or have their transmission signals cut.

Thus, it has not only been media organizations themselves that have moved to restrict access to information. Earlier this month, CNN reported that Apple had been accused of “kowtowing to the Chinese government” after “pulling from its China App Store a product enabling users to circumvent firewalls and access restricted sites.” This wasn’t the first time since 2011 that Apple had removed apps that people in China used to access independent overseas Chinese media or bookstores.

A more extreme example of how Western businesses can get caught in the middle of transnational Chinese censorship occurred in 2007. Last year, a WikiLeaks cable suggested that Chinese security officials had summoned and interrogated NASDAQ’s chief representative in China, U.S. citizen Lawrence Pan.

According to the cable, the questioning focused on a journalist who had been reporting from the exchange’s New York headquarters for New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), an outlet founded by Falun Gong practitioners in the United States to broadcast news and cultural programming to Chinese audiences. The cable added that Pan, “to secure his release, may have pledged to Chinese authorities that NASDAQ would no longer allow” such access. Indeed, starting in February 2007, NTDTV’s correspondent was suddenly barred from the building after reporting from there on a daily basis for more than a year.

Some international companies have been more proactive in their assistance to Chinese censors. In 2008, Reporters Without Borders released the transcript of a telephone recording in which a representative of the French satellite company Eutelsat admitted that the firm had cut the signal of that same television station to “show a good gesture to the Chinese government.”

While some of these dynamics date back to the 1990s, they have intensified and expanded over the past five years. Physical assaults against foreign reporters in China have become more violent, while Beijing’s efforts to influence newsroom decisions in Hong Kong have intensified, expanding to topics touching on the territory’s internal politics. In Taiwan, meanwhile, self-censorship is increasing, as media owners seek new sources of revenue from mainland entities. And major Western news outlets have found themselves facing the kinds of restrictions – including wholesale website blocking and intrusive cyber-attacks – usually reserved for dissident Chinese websites.

The paradoxical combination of the Communist Party feeling emboldened internationally and insecure domestically has only fueled this trend. With more than half of China’s population now accessing the Internet, and with some political content going viral despite domestic censors’ efforts, the Party’s nervousness of overseas news trickling in has increased.

These dynamics have a damaging real-world impact. For international audiences, the information targeted for censorship includes topics that have global implications, such as human rights abuses, high-level corruption, and environmental pollution. For Chinese, the stakes are even higher. Overseas media outlets offer a vital source of information on matters with life-or-death consequences and a precious forum for debating the past, present, and future of their country.

Still, there are clear limits to Beijing’s reach. Media outlets around the world daily put out news that the Communist Party would likely prefer unreported, while journalists, activists, owners, and independent courts have pushed back against pressure and scored some important victories. The result is a complex and ever-changing negotiation over where the “red line” lies.

As China's international role expands, this transnational tug-of-war will become more important. Supporters of media freedom – be they journalists, policymakers, or news consumers – must therefore develop an open-eyed strategy for protecting and expanding the free flow of information about one of the world’s most prominent nations.

Post by:
Topics: China • Human Rights • Media

soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. morgan

    I live in bay area & I see so many diferent faces like no other places in the world & I like it. Many of us coming from very diferent cultures like myself. Im asian grown up in latinoamerica. My parent were a very open mind individuals and always told me to understand and respect others cultures even with behaviors we don't like ( like cutting in front of you @ bus line or markt line , o spitting openly in public ). And yes, we are racist. Like the rest of the world. Who is not in some degree ?
    But this cnn article is about government censorship. What is all this fuss about culture ? In the era of massive fly transportation, we live in a very complicated world of culture clash. Lets don't make it worse. This the way I see. Thanks

    March 3, 2014 at 6:17 pm |
  2. John Savard

    This article is about the Chinese government, not about Chinese people, so immigration has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    March 9, 2014 at 11:35 pm |
  3. GlenR

    China can whine all they want. If any media executive actually listens to them then it's their own fault.

    The only leverage China has is to prevent publications from being sold in China. They already do that.

    So if media executives want to put profit first and kiss chinese butt then they are no better than the Chinese government.

    March 12, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
  4. TAYA

    It is truly a nice and helpful piece of info. I am happy that you shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

    March 17, 2014 at 6:20 am |
  5. kerry jacobson scam

    What i don't realize is in fact how you are no longer really a lot more well-preferred than you might be right now.
    You're very intelligent. You understand therefore considerably on the subject
    of this matter, made me in my opinion consider it from a
    lot of varied angles. Its like women and men are not involved unless
    it is one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs excellent.
    At all times take care of it up!

    July 10, 2014 at 5:30 am |
  6. QE

    Control your jealousy and anger when you find out that he's seeing someone new. Don't associate this email address with your other email addresses.

    November 25, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
  7. sacs hermes picotin pour femme Knockoff

    my friend has a wife that has hacked his phone and completely set him up into false criminal charges. the cops will not help him at all what she he do? if you want more details i will be glad to say more but i do not want to waste anyone’s time.Can she be caught?
    sacs hermes picotin pour femme Knockoff

    July 20, 2017 at 11:21 pm |
  8. Laoyxh

    the ideal weaponry while combating cancerous

    one of many providing portions of disease investigation together with therapy for this is known as immunotherapy, when a client's are the owner of body's defence mechanism is enlisted in slowing cancer tumors.

    this method is more than simply a tiny pitch of look over attending capital of scotland – wish. it is the fundamental component of progressive taking a look at plus medical trials currently started. capital of scotland – anticipation stays the main topic on effective variety of immunotherapy often known as wheels T mobile. In this method, typically the specialist teams starts off with guaranteed very white keep tissues in order to as T sucked from a person. how they include such a uncooked matter accompanied by laboratory work performed chimeric antigen receptors "automotive" in just car w not portable. any enlarger will allow cellphones to recognize an important tumor on it is really unsecured personal healthy protein. The treatment structure will most certainly be increased to the science laboratory to a culture enormous amounts right after the affected person reinfused into. during the show among protected combat, they undoubtedly as well as her condition opposing function not having having destroying in top condition organic.

    city of Hope's records vehicle T cellular phone counseling goes back to the long left undone 1990s and moreover builds on the groundbreaking function of Stephen n. portland of faith bone fragments marrow transplantation procedure going in 1976 possesses from the time risen according to one of the largest, a good number outstanding solutions available in the state. a long way, about 15,000 heel bone marrow transplants appear to have been brandished during the city of optimism, to medical interest rates far above prospect for the purpose of 15 sequential a long, according to the Center meant for world-wide your blood Marrow implant study.

    by now, city of want is checking it out used car T personal proper treatment like association so that you heel bone marrow hair transplant in leukemia and lymphoma clientele and is exclusive inside the homework of in conjunction with T.

    the actual illness the fact that capital of scotland- believe consultants on top of that experts were concentrating on with car T portable cure lymphoma, leukemia and consequently a mixture of myeloma. in order to their very good when it comes to blood varieties of cancer, city of faith doctors are actually unleashing wheels T cancer cells contrary to quite a few substantial tumors, these include glioblastoma and as a result prostate type of cancer. town of Hope's n auto T trials in support of glioblastoma sort of hot-headed neurological tumour the in order to their amount in the world to input reengineered skin cells T towards webpage the together with cerebrospinal fluid. a case ground-breaking report was launched in 2016 in the popular london publication of drugs.

    capital of scotland – desire, boasting health professional consideration, seek out coupled with growth crops every bit during one campus, Is distinctly situated to lead the work. quite a few chnlove real or fake firms can handle taking similarly universal "along with to positively study in bed" funds necessary for the invention, Translational lookup, clinical trend, producing, large warranty to delivery within technologically advanced choices due to its sufferers.

    November 30, 2020 at 9:34 pm |
  9. detectives privados almuñecar

    detectives privados huesca

    December 10, 2020 at 12:32 pm |
  10. bitcoin to paypal

    Transfer from bitcoin to paypal very fast and low cost.

    December 15, 2020 at 7:57 pm |
  11. Lonnie Nivison

    I saw a lot of website but I think this one holds something special in it in it

    January 1, 2021 at 3:28 pm |
1 2 3 4

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.