I was in Guangzhou and Foshan over the weekend, and I never felt farther from Hong Kong, which is just two hours away.
Of course, I could still watch TVB Jade and TVB Pearl in South China, but half of the 25-minute news program was censored. Friends say that has been mostly the case in the past two months.
In Sunday’s news broadcast, Hong Kong’s association of journalists described 2014 as the darkest year for press freedom in decades, but when it came to the part where examples of how editors and commentators were reshuffled, the news was cut to give way to a Hong Kong government advertisement.
There is, I figure, a one-minute delay in the broadcast of a Hong Kong TV program in China, enough time for the state propaganda department to decide whether to clear or zap it for local consumption. At least these people were kind enough to let viewers know the news headlines, before taking out the content.
China’s media gatekeepers may be sensitive to content, but I think they like personality-oriented news. And so over the past two days, I learned that Leung Kwok-hung has called on pan-democrats to resign while Emily Lau Wai-hing has warned that the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign in nigh.
Searching for other news sources proved to be difficult. Websites of major newspapers – Apple, Oriental Daily, Ming Pao, even Sing Tao, as well as all the free sheets – are blocked. Only a couple of financial papers, Economic Journal and Economic Times, plus the pro-China papers such as Wen Wei Pao and Ta Kung Pao, are allowed.
Local English-language publications such as the South China Morning Post and the Standard are more accessible, but not Wall Street Journal, New York Times and definitely not Bloomberg. Financial Times is an exception, and subscribers like me have no problem accessing the site.
For news in electronic media, I was able to access Cable TV and ATV, but not TVB. All three licensed radio networks – RTHK, Commercial Radio and Metro Radio – are blocked.
There seems to be a grey area when it comes to mobile apps. Liberal websites such as House News and Commercial Radio are blocked online, but I could get access through Android or Apple Store.
I remember having had some success in accessing Jimmy Lai Chee-ying’s Next Media Animation news before, but not this time. The situation varies from time to time, and from one region to another. Censorship is like a door — sometimes it’s open, but often it’s closed.
My biggest problem was getting into Google, particularly my Gmail account, which was blocked most of the time. Luckily, I was able to get access through my mobile app. Another problem was downloading from Android, where I failed half of the time. Google search was out of the question, and so was trying to find out how many likes my Facebook status got.
There are two other ways to get around censorship. First is to download some software that allows users to bypass the official blockade, or what netizens call as “climbing the wall”. One little problem: the app always changes to avoid official censorship. (Catch me if you can!) But one should have no problem finding ways to download through Android or Apple Store. Second, find a kind soul who uses Hong Kong’s IP, and you can usually find them at a Hong Kong-style cha chaan teng (tea restaurant) in China.
– Contact us at [email protected]