China announces lunar new year censorship crackdown to silence Covid ‘rumours’

Plan to target ‘gloomy sentiments’ across festival period comes as independent health forecasters estimate over 600,000 deaths from Covid

Chinese cyber authorities have announced an internet censorship crackdown to ensure there are no “gloomy sentiments” caused by pandemic “rumours” during the lunar new year festival.

It comes as health forecasting firm Airfinity estimated more than 600,000 people have likely died since zero-Covid restrictions were lifted in December – 10 times more than Chinese authorities have officially declared.

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Hong Kong pressures Google to remove protest anthem from searches

Authorities want Glory to Hong Kong axed from top results and replaced with China’s national anthem

Google has refused to change its search results to display China’s national anthem, rather than a protest song, when users search for Hong Kong’s national anthem, the city’s security chief has said, expressing “great regret” at the decision.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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China accused of flooding social media with spam to cover up Covid protests

US firm says network of bot accounts also hijacking hashtags in large-scale attempt to obscure coverage

An attempt to flood social media platforms with spam in order to drown out coverage of the lockdown protests in China was probably backed by the Chinese government, according to analysis by a US cybersecurity firm.

Recorded Future found that networks of coordinated bot accounts were targeting non-Chinese social media platforms to crowd out genuine posts about the demonstrations with spam content and by hijacking hashtags of names of Chinese cities. It said China’s government was most likely to be behind the tactic.

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New Zealand woman takes Chinese media site to human rights tribunal over ban

Auckland woman says she was banned from popular Chinese-language media forum SkyKiwi for posting political content

A woman is taking New Zealand’s biggest Chinese-language media site to a human rights review tribunal after she claims she was banned from its online message board for posting political content.

May Moncur migrated from China 20 years ago and is a permanent resident of New Zealand. The Auckland employment advocate has used the New Zealand-based media company SkyKiwi for more than 15 years, regularly posting links about migrant exploitation or offering employment advice on its most popular message board, “FML”.

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From blank paper to alpacas: how protesters in China are voicing their anger – video

The largest protests in a generation erupted in cities across China over the weekend against the government’s zero-Covid policy. 

The most widely used symbol in the demonstrations has been a blank sheet of paper. It symbolises censorship, and may also, some Twitter users pointed out, be read as a reference to the deaths last week of 10 people in a building fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang, which was blamed on lockdown restrictions that protesters believe prevented the residents from escaping in time. In China, white is a colour used at funerals. But protesters have found other creative ways to express their anger, as Helen Sullivan explains

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China censors maskless crowd footage in World Cup broadcasts

As protesters in Chinese cities rage against Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy, TV feeds are edited to avoid crowd scenes

Chinese state television has censored World Cup games to remove shots of maskless crowds after the sight of joyous fans celebrating in packed stadiums stoked anger back home, where hundreds of millions remain under strict pandemic restrictions.

A well-attended opening ceremony in Qatar – with no social distancing – led to users of Chinese social media platforms complaining that it contrasted with the severe isolation they felt under President Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy.

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Film depicting transgender love affair to be screened in Pakistan

Cannes Jury prize-winning Joyland had previously been banned following objections by Islamist hardliners

A Pakistani film portraying romance between a married man and a transgender woman was cleared for domestic screenings on Wednesday, officials said, reversing a government ban forced by Islamist pressure.

Lauded by critics, awarded the jury prize at Cannes and nominated as Pakistan’s entry for next year’s Academy Awards, Joyland was set to open in cinemas across the country this Friday.

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Hong Kong exiles in UK unnerved by ‘weak’ response to beating of protester

Activists fear for their safety after limited UK riposte to assault on demonstrator outside Chinese consulate

Hong Kong migrants who fled repression by China said they fear for their safety and are calling on the UK government to take a bolder stance after a pro-democracy protester was beaten in the grounds of a Chinese consulate two weeks ago.

The assault in Manchester drew swift condemnation from activists and politicians across the Commons as videos circulated showing a senior Chinese diplomat forcefully grabbing a pro-democracy protester’s hair before the protester was wrestled to the ground and beaten by a group of men.

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Return to Dust, Chinese hit film about rural hardships, disappears from streaming platforms

Film’s sudden disappearance in China prompts censorship accusations amid heightened sensitivity ahead of key Communist party meeting

A popular Chinese film depicting a love story amid the hardships of life in rural China has been removed from all streaming services just weeks after its release, and discussion of it censored on social media.

Return to Dust had been widely praised by audiences for its realistic and moving depiction of rural life in China. For the same reason it had also drawn criticism from nationalistic voices accusing it of portraying China in a negative light.

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China’s Lipstick King reappears, months after Tiananmen ‘tank cake’ row

Celebrity livestreamer Li Jiaqi returns to screen after nearly four months of silence following a broadcast showcasing a tank-shaped dessert

China’s leading shopping livestreamer, Li Jiaqi, has returned to online commerce platforms almost four months after his feed was suddenly cut, which viewers suspected was linked to the errant appearance of a tank-shaped cake.

Li, also known as the Lipstick King for his ability to move huge amounts of product on his sales channels, briefly appeared on Alibaba Group’s Taobao marketplace on Tuesday evening.

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China’s censorship reaches far beyond its own borders | Letter

We should never take free speech for granted, especially if it concerns art, writes John Finlay

I read with interest your editorial (The Guardian view on China’s censors: the sense of an (acceptable) ending, 24 August). In 2016, I was about to publish a book on pop art, which had a short section on artists responding to political and social turmoil in the 1960s, and which included an illustration of Jim Dine’s Drag – Johnson and Mao (1967). The etching depicts Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China and the US president Lyndon B Johnson, who sent troops to counter Chinese communist support in the Vietnam war.

Dine’s coloured etching applies cosmetic touches to the lips, cheeks and eyelids of these two supposed (and opposed) “freedom” fighters (and a black heart painted on the chin of Mao), essentially to caricature political propaganda and masculine conviction. The capitalist and communist leaders appear as drag actors whose posturing affects a global audience. The printers of my book – a Chinese company – forced the London publisher to remove the offending illustration and text. In our cosy western world, we should never take free speech for granted, especially if it concerns art.
John Finlay
Edinburgh

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India ruling party legislator arrested over prophet remarks amid protests

T Raja Singh suspended earlier this week for hate speech after allegedly abusive comments

Police in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad have arrested a suspended leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) for making allegedly abusive remarks about the prophet Muhammad.

Police arrested T Raja Singh, 45, on Thursday after thousands of Muslims took to the streets in the city protesting against his speech.

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Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai to plead not guilty in national security case

Democracy activist and Apple Daily founder will stand trial without jury and could face up to life in prison

The founder of Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, will stand trial without a jury in Hong Kong, after he told a court he would plead not guilty to national security charges.

On Monday, prosecutors told a case management hearing that Lai would challenge the accusations but six fellow executives and manager from the now-defunct Apple Daily or its parent company, Next Digital, intended to plead guilty.

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Chinese censors alter ending of Minions: The Rise of Gru film

Viewers mock addendum explaining Gru’s family values and arrest of thief Wild Knuckles

Censors in China have changed the ending of the animated film Minions: The Rise of Gru for its domestic release, according to viewers in the country, in yet another example of China altering a popular Hollywood film.

According to posts and screenshots of the film, shared on Weibo, a platform similar to Twitter, there is an addendum by censors showing that Wild Knuckles, a main character in the heist film, was caught by police and served 20 years in jail.

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