When John Ross,“former director of London’s Economic and Business Policy to ex-Mayor Ken Livingstone and current Senior Fellow with the Chongyang Institute” at Renmin University, was approached by Chinese tabloid Global Times (GT) for a profile about foreign China Watchers, he was, no doubt, expecting a nice soap-job.
I work for a sub-branch of CCTV geared toward international video news, and we have several TV screens in the office that run 24-hour feeds of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Al Jazeera and others – ostensibly to keep up with the competition. But I returned from our canteen this past Sunday evening to find six or seven of my Chinese colleagues glued to a screen showing a live-feed from CNN.
It's a decent day. Outdoors, I mean. We shouldn't be doing this. We shouldn't be checking our WeChat groups as friends report what portals are working and which are not -- "Sweden 2 is okay" ... "...and, not any more!" -- we shouldn't be obsessively clicking refresh on our gmail tab as if the government has decided just in the previous five seconds to unblock the service, and we shouldn't be cooped up in cubicles or monstrosities of home-office complexes twiddling our thumbs like simian slaves of a machine that won't even let us work. We should all go to the park and play Frisbee.
WHAT was missed: The 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival (BIFF)
WHEN things went down: August 23rd (scheduled to run through August 31)
WHERE films were to be shown: Beijing’s Songzhuang artists’ district, at the Li Xianting Film Fund
HOW MANY films were denied an audience: 76. 76!!
China's anti-porn crackdown -- its latest, I mean, in a long line of many -- isn't going as well as planned, because apparently porn is hard to block and everyone watches it, so the propaganda spinners have gone into overdrive to frame the story in a new light. If you want to see Chinese state media at its best / worst, these are the moments you cherish, when it completely jumps the shark.
HBO's Game of Thrones arrived in China last week, but the fit-for-CCTV broadcast was so rigorously edited to conform to some "public morality" that one netizen hilariously called it "a medieval European castle documentary." But amid all the articles about this development, we may have lost sight of a more amazing fact: Game of Thrones -- a show about political wrangling, skulduggery, sabotage, dissolution, sex, etc. -- was allowed to air on Chinese TV. It took two whole days before we got this Ishaan Tharoor post on the Washington Post, titled:
When Chinese video streaming sites pulled down all episodes of The Big Bang Theory on orders from China's official censors, it angered fans across the country -- and also, it turns out, the show's creator, Chuck Lorre. The following is what Lorre wrote on one of his "vanity cards" that appeared at the end of Big Bang's May 1 episode (as noticed by the Wall Street Journal):
People's Daily has had an eventful week. Last Monday it called the New York Times "circling vultures" for an article on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370; on Friday it sought "immediate rectification" from a parody Twitter account, @relevantorgans; then, somehow, it got a guest editorial out of Bill Gates. But PD truly tops itself with this next thing, because these are words that someone actually wrote. Via Reuters:
The fourth Beijing International Film Festival opened on Wednesday, and it looks like it's already less boring than last year's. For that we have the Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone to thank, who on Thursday in a panel discussion spoke provocatively on Mao Zedong and urged the Chinese to confront their history. As The Hollywood Reporter reports:
Those of you who follow us will know about C4, the sometimes funny, certainly unique, not-unnoteworthy comedy/variety show via China Radio International that we sporadically syndicate. Among the fun things that hosts Rob Hemsley and Stuart Wiggin have done recently -- though not quite as good as "The Panda" -- is a bloopers segment that featured none other than Xi Jinping.
A recently produced short film from GVAcreative has gone viral, built on the idea that Hong Kong, since being "passed over" to China in 1997, is becoming less like what it was and that its past will eventually be gone. "The city is dying, just like a man who has lost a lot of blood,” says one of the characters in voice-over.
PEN America organized a protest called "Take a Stand for Free Expression in China: An Evening of Literary Protest" last Thursday, April 10, in front of the Brooklyn Public Library in New York. Ai Weiwei was more or less the face of the event, attended by several hundreds of people / bored Brooklynites, which was also had the purpose of raising awareness of persecuted Chinese writers. Art Daily reports that Ai Weiwei appeared via video message to thank his supporters.
We're still awaiting word from Astrill support, but in case you're wondering, yes, the popular VPN service is down -- both the website and service itself. We don't know if it has anything to do with China, but probably not -- "technical problem," says Astrill.com. Look at that emoticon - that is the sorriest goddamn sad-face I've ever seen.
Reporters Without Borders released its latest version of the World Press Freedom Index, and apparently China has cancer. It ranks sixth from the bottom, at 175, below Vietnam, Iran, Cuba, etc. To give you an understanding of how bad Reporters Sans Frontières believes the situation is:
After two-plus years, Lady Gaga has been removed from China's musical blacklist, which means she can now perform on the mainland. Her third studio album, ARTPOP, has also been approved for release, as the singer herself announced in a tweet: "I'm so excited!!!! The Chinese Government Approved ARTPOP to be released in China with all 15 songs!"
Yesterday afternoon, Chinese internet users expecting to search China's Baidu search engine or the Weibo social media site were redirected to website associated with Freegate, an anticensorship software tied to the Falun Gong.
A question worth repeating: has the Guardian been blocked in China? The eye test and GreatFire.org say yes, though we've seen technological glitches involving major English-language news sites in China before -- Wall Street Journal, namely -- so we're not ready to call this yet. Also, why the Guardian?
The latest column from New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan is about China: an article that first summarizes why it's becoming increasingly difficult for foreign correspondents to work here, then reminds its readers that the Times remains -- unlike Bloomberg, I think is clearly one implication -- a news company first and foremost.