Why David Beckham’s tattoos look blurry on Chinese television
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. When the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV played a travel documentary starring David Beckham in May, viewers were treated to an eye-opening experience – sort of. As a shirtless Beckham recalled how he put his career ahead of his family, what viewers saw was the English soccer star’s head floating on a blurry blob of what would have been his exposed torso, abs and all. His body tattoos were all pixelated. The defaced Beckham was the result of a censorship rule in China that since 2018 prohibits broadcasters from showing tattooed celebrities on TV.  But as t
China confirms arrest of citizen journalist covering coronavirus
A former lawyer and citizen journalist who reported on the coronavirus outbreak from central China has been formally arrested on public disturbance charges in Shanghai, her father has confirmed. The family was notified on Friday of Zhang Zhan’s arrest for allegedly “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a catch-all charge often used by the authorities to detain dissidents in China.  Prosecutors approved the arrest in Shanghai’s Pudong district. According to the official notice given to her parents, Zhang, 37, was in police custody in the district. “I’m very worried about her health and the detention conditions, and her mother is heartbroken,” Zhang’s 63-year-old father, who declined to g
How China engineers an alternative internet for its people 
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Inkstone Explains unravels the ideas and context behind the headlines to help you understand news about China. Stretching along the entire border of mainland China is an invisible barrier, dubbed the Great Firewall, that keeps out information that the Chinese authorities deem inappropriate. Sites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter – and Inkstone – are inaccessible in the mainland thanks to this metaphorical wall. The list of banned websites is ever expanding. While software to bypass the wall exists, the sophisticated system of censorship has become a powerful tool for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to strengthen its rule by limiting what China’s 900 million in
China expels American reporters and vows more punishments
China has threatened more curbs on US media operating in the country after saying it will expel journalists from three American newspapers. “China called on the US to stop suppressing Chinese media. If the US continues to be on the wrong track, China will be forced to take further countermeasures,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday.  The Ministry said on Tuesday it was revoking the press credentials for American journalists from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, describing it as a response to the Trump administration’s recent measures against Chinese state media outlets in the United States. Washington last month labeled five Ch
‘Let’s play’: Beijing hints at payback for US curbs on Chinese state media
China has suggested that it will retaliate against the United States for reducing the number of Chinese nationals allowed to work in the US offices of major Chinese state-owned media organizations. Hua Chunying, the head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s information department, on Tuesday condemned the Trump administration’s restrictions on five Chinese state-run media outlets that will result in the effective expulsion of dozens of Chinese journalists from the US. “Now the US kicked off the game, let’s play,” she said in a tweet. The US said on Monday it will put a “personnel cap” on five organizations the Trump administration considers propaganda arms of the Chinese government. The restri
Tracking the cat and mouse game of social media censorship in China
July 21, 2019 remains seared into Hongkongers’ memories for the shocking images and videos of white-shirted men, some suspected to be gangsters, beating protesters and train passengers with sticks in the Yuen Long railway station. Over the border in mainland China, the date evokes a memory of a different scenario: black-clad protesters converging on Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong and defacing the national emblem of the People’s Republic of China. Until that day, Chinese media had been silent on protests erupting in Hong Kong. The protests were sparked by a now withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent for trial on the mainland, among other jurisdi
When Chinese students were given the uncensored internet
Part of living in mainland China is living with a censored internet. But what’s that doing to the people growing up behind the “Great Firewall”? A recent study has found that the perils of living with such a controlled internet go beyond simply having limited access to valuable information. In fact, censorship in China is fostering a society where people no longer demand uncensored information at all, according to research published in the American Economic Association. “Citizens with access to uncensored internet may not seek out politically sensitive information, due to lack of interest in politics, fear of government reprisal, and unawareness or distrust of foreign news outlets,” the rese
This idiom perfectly describes China’s squeeze on Hong Kong
When I started as AFP’s bureau chief in Hong Kong in 2014, huge pro-democracy rallies known as the Umbrella Movement were erupting onto the streets, earning their name from the rag-tag assortment of umbrellas used by protesters to protect against police tear gas and pepper spray. Although there were flare-ups of violence, the protests were largely peaceful and the city was filled with hope for change. This brave optimism, which pitted the economically powerful but small former British colony against the might of mainland China, won Hong Kong’s people worldwide admiration. For many like me, an outsider living here, it deepened my affection for the semi-autonomous territory where I had already
1984 is happening in China, says acclaimed novelist
In May, celebrated Chinese novelist Ma Jian, 65, spent a month in Hong Kong as writer-in-residence at a university in the city. The weeks went by quickly and without incident. Ma, who lives in exile in London, had a pleasant time teaching and discussing literature with promising students, though his work has been banned in China since the 1980s. Half a year later, Ma returned to Hong Kong once more, a city where he had previously lived for a decade. But this trip was very different: he struggled to find a place to host him. The venue that was slated to hold his two appearances at a literary festival over the weekend canceled. Tai Kwun, an arts center converted from a historic police compound
Pussy Riot storms Hong Kong
Two members of Russian activist punk rock group Pussy Riot visited Hong Kong to take part in a week of freedom of expression events in the city.  After an artist who criticized China had to cancel his show because of alleged threats from the Chinese authorities, the Pussy Riot members organized a protest in solidarity.  Olya Kyrachyova and Nika Nikulshina of Pussy Riot talk about supporting activists in Hong Kong and why LGBT solidarity is important.