China: Occupy Wall St gets too close
October 21, 2011 11:25 am by Kathrin Hille
When Occupy Wall Street was no more than an obscure little protest in New York, the Chinese state media were really intrigued by the movement. China Daily, the country’s largest English-language daily newspaper, blasted the Western media for allegedly hushing up the news. Over the past month, Communist party mouthpieces and nationalist tabloids have relished the chance to bash the West and lecture America.
But now that the protests have spread around the world and appear to be morphing into a movements against many things including ruthless capitalism, corruption, inequality and the arrogance of power, China’s rulers have apparently decided that this is getting too close to home.
Media outlets have received a gag order on the topic, according to a prominent media expert. “A magazine to which I am a contributor has received a notice from regulators saying that it must not carry any content regarding Occupy Wall Street,” said Hu Yong, a journalism professor at Peking University and one of the foremost experts on social media in China, on Twitter.
Although reports and discussion of the topic can still be easily found online, print media and television have indeed noticeably reduced reporting and commentary since the beginning of the week, and apparently completely stopped covering the topic on Thursday.
The concern among party propaganda officials is not surprising. Defining a ‘correct’ ideological message is often difficult given that the country’s messy economic and social reality, with its aggressive entrepreneurs, greed, weak social security network and labour standards and huge income gap often resembles a caricature of capitalism more closely than communism.
It is therefore almost unthinkable for China’s media to thunder like North Korea’s state news agency did on Thursday, praising the protests as the “stern judgment of millions of people” of a capitalist system where the “popular masses” suffer from “exploitation, oppression, unemployment and poverty.”
In China, there had already been some small-scale expressions of solidarity with the anti-Wall Street movement with a sit-in of elderly people in the Central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, and widespread debate online making the connection to corrupt officials and greedy state enterprises.
Reporting bans are an everyday affair in China, as is mockery of them online. It’s no different with the latest one. “At this time, where is Chen Weihua, the deputy editor of the US edition of China Daily who wrote ‘The US media blackout of protest is shameful’? asked Hu on Twitter. “Where are Zhen Yan and Xiao Gang, the editorial writers of Beijing Daily who wrote ‘Here we can’t find ‘press freedom’, we can’t find ‘objectivity and fairness’’?