Chinese government caught censoring maskless World Cup fans

China: Protests against Covid restrictions intensify

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China’s state television is censoring footage broadcast domestically that shows World Cup fans in Qatar not wearing masks as the Chinese government continues to battle high-profile protests over its hardline Zero Covid policy. The state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), is substituting the vast majority of footage of fans celebrating or consoling one another for alternative shots, according to new information.

This may include close-ups of team members or coaches, an analysis by Bloomberg News concluded.

The review of Chinese state media footage found a “familiar playbook” of delays that “gives censors more time to respond to anything that might be looked down upon in Beijing”.

The sports arm of CCTV then opted for wider, more general shots in place of footage clearly showing maskless fans in Qatar during Japan’s defeat by Costa Rica on Sunday, The South China Morning Post reported.

The outlet argued a similar pattern had been spotted in Australia’s game against Tunisia.

The FIFA World Cup was then linked to an open letter published on social media, which questioned whether China was “on the same planet” as the rest of the world with its continuing Covid Zero measures.

It comes against a backdrop of domestic protests against the strict measures across the country, as Beijing continues to lock down entire communities over a single reported case.

Angered citizens have been seen holding blank pieces of paper in a nod to the impact of censorship.

Crowds in Shanghai were even heard calling for leader Xi Jinping’s resignation, just months after he solidified his grasp on the CCP leadership.

Protests were held in several major cities, including the capital and in Wuhan, where the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.

The country is also up against its worst Covid outbreak in several months.

On Monday, Chinese authorities reported a new daily record for soaring infections, with the number sitting now at 40,347, the Guardian reported.

The protests ignited on Friday after a lethal blaze broke out in a residential building in Urumqi, the regional capital of the Xinjiang region.

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At least 10 people were killed in the fire at the apartment complex, with nine others injured.

Stringent lockdown measures were blamed for the slow response time of emergency services attending the scene of the fire.

Local residents protested, quickly spreading throughout the country by the end of the weekend.

The BBC then said over the weekend that one of its journalists covering the protests was arrested and “beaten” before being released from custody.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: “The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai.”

They added: “He was held for several hours before being released. During his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police.

“This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist.”

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