Silencing the critics

10 Jan 2008

A certain consequence of censorship is more censorship. Those willing to silence others are invariably unwilling to submit to their critics.

So it is with the new rules on video content, which ban all but state-owned companies from offering online video or audio services in China.

The new video regulations received the usual positive welcome after they were announced on December 29. But the agencies involved - the MII, SARFT and the Central Publicity Department - must have been surprised to learn that not all were pleased with this war on private video.

Yan Kaili, a professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, told the online portal Sohu on Tuesday this week that the new laws were unfair to the private sector and "totally counter-productive".

By Tuesday evening the story had disappeared from the site and replaced with an apology from Sohu to Professor Yan. "This text created an inappropriate negative impact on Professor Yan Kaili," Sohu said. The apology did not state that Yan had been misreported, or that he denied making any of the comments attributed to him.

One assumes the Sohu IT team now understand that a harmonious society cannot absorb remarks as pointed as Professor Yan's.

Indeed, we are reminded once more that harmony PRC-style is a happy marriage of economic protection and political repression. It is where investors of good faith in firms like Youku and Tudou will lose their cash and hundreds of staff will lose their jobs.

But who needs those, or YouTube, when we can all be watching CCTV online‾

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