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November 16, 2009
Authorities filter Obama’s message in China

An Internet user in Shanghai. Photo: flickr user 2 dogs

Hsin-Yin Lee, a former associate producer at Worldfocus, is a news editor at the “China Times” in Taipei.

Obama’s town hall meeting was well-conducted in my opinion–no surprises, no shoes. Still, my friends and I were very upset about Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the Chinese government, which claimed to live-broadcast the event exclusively but failed to do so. During Obama’s 75-minute-long address, Xinhua’s Website was completely down and we had to log on the White House Website.

I was not sure if it was about the censorship or simply due to the large flow, but the malfunction of the state-controlled media had indeed raised the question once again– Are the Chinese people properly informed?

Before the Shanghai meeting, the Chinese authorities had already said that the dialogue between the U.S. president and the Shanghai university students would not be broadcast live on a national network except Xinhua News Agency. The White House had originally hoped Obama’s 75-minute dialogue with students from eight Shanghai universities would be broadcast live on the state-owned Central China Television network. But the Communist government, apparently wary of what the charismatic Obama might say in the unscripted event, refused the request. To make their position clear, Chinese officials also told the media that Obama’s remarks could only be considered as his “interaction with the students” rather than any kind of “personal speech.”

The war on agenda became even more serious after the meeting. In a story titled “Obama firm on One-China policy,” Xinhua News Agency simply summarized Obama’s “interaction with the students” by pulling out several irrelevant quotes such as: “U.S. has much to learn about China,” “U.S. to expand the number of American students who study in China to 100,000,” and “U.S. hopes to see a harmonious cross-Strait relations.”

Unfortunately, the news report looks misleading to me–and misleading the audience could sometimes do more harm than not reporting the issue at all. The practice of out-of-context reporting has been a real problem in China these days –while the audience think that the government has allowed them access to the news event, most messages have actually been filtered and twisted.

– Hsin-Yin Lee


1 comment


Xinhua has the whole transcript of his speech including the part about internet freedom up on its site. I think this blogger is reaching a bit.

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