No sooner had it gone viral than China’s government censors moved to restrain it.
Still, a deeply emotive documentary on air pollution by a mother inspired by her young daughter, had received more than 100 million views on social media before it was muzzled by the authorities, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
The film was produced and presented by former state television journalist Chai Jing, whose daughter was diagnosed with a benign tumor at birth and had to be swiftly operated on.
Under The Dome documents the health risks of China’s pollution problem and how the government has failed to tackle it.
“Before, I never paid attention to pollution. Wherever I went, I never wore a mask,” Chai says.
But she said caring for her daughter, whom she compares to a prisoner, kept inside away from the smog for most of her first year, made her increasingly concerned about the air.
The film has dominated China’s social media after its release online Saturday, prompting both praise and criticism.
On Sunday, newly appointed Environment Minister Chen Jining told reporters that he had personally thanked Chai for her efforts and likened her film to Rachel Carson ’s seminal 1962 work Silent Spring which helped spark the US environmental movement.
But just hours later, China’s propaganda arm cautioned editors to stop focusing attention on the film, according to several journalists.
One editor at a well-respected commercial daily said Monday that propaganda authorities instructed his paper to cease further reporting on the documentary and remove any existing articles about it from the paper’s home page and apps.
Journalists at major Chinese print and online media outlets circulated screenshots on social media of what looked like a notice from the state-run Xinhua news agency asking publications to refrain from using several items it had published on the documentary. Xinhua didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The documentary itself remained available online despite the sensitive nature of its topic which takes direct aim at the country’s state-run oil companies.
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