'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Friday, March 6, 2015
Controversial film on China's air pollution disappears from sites
A popular but controversial documentary on China’s struggles
with pollution was inaccessible on China’s video sharing websites on Saturday,
sparking concern from Chinese Internet users that it had been censored within a
week of its launch.
“Under the Dome”, a film by journalist Chai Jing that
explains air pollution in straightforward terms, spurred a national debate
after its release last weekend and quickly garnered hundreds of millions of
views on streaming video sites.
Its removal will likely be seen as highlighting the
government’s priority on maintaining social stability, even on an issue like
pollution, the tackling of which it has said is a top priority and around which
it has promised greater transparency. Just on Thursday, at the opening of the
annual session of parliament, Premier Li Keqiang called pollution a blight on
people’s lives and vowed to step up efforts to combat it.
Signs of the film no longer being accessible on the
country’s biggest online video sharing websites started late on Friday. By
Saturday morning, it was inaccessible on all the major video sites, as well as
a number of smaller video sites, with users getting error messages when they
tried to play it.
Neither internet regulator the Cyberspace Administration of
China, nor the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and
Television responded immediately to requests for comment.
Youku Tudou Inc, Tencent Holdings Ltd, Sohu.com Inc and
iQiyi, the online video service of Baidu Inc, which operate video streaming
services, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday. Chai,
the filmmaker, did not respond to requests for comment. The website of
Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, which had originally posted the
video on its site, did not answer repeated calls requesting comment.
China operates one of the world’s most sophisticated online
censorship mechanisms, known as the Great Firewall. Censors keep a grip on what
can be published online, particularly content seen as potentially undermining
the ruling Communist Party.
Chai was a well-known journalist on state-run television
before making the film, which was released just as China’s leaders prepared to
hold the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) this week. The
disappearance of the video was met with anger from many Internet users. “Some
people have the power to completely smother Chai Jing’s ‘Under the Dome’ on the
Internet, but don’t have the power to smother haze in this country,” one
Internet user said on the Twitter-like site, Weibo.