1/21/2009

Helping Make His Point

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20:  President Barack Oba...Image by Getty Images via DaylifeAt crucial points in his Inaugural Address President Obama mentioned how the United States had faced down "fascism and communism" he also noted that those who "blamed their ills on the West" and those "who silenced dissent" were on the wrong side of history.

China, decided to help make his point by censoring those portions of his speech. During their television coverage they cut away when he mentioned those points and in the transcripts printed on the Xinhua news agency websites, those portions have been omitted.

According to the BBC:

In his inauguration address, President Obama said: "Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions."

That entire passage was retained for an English-language version of the speech that appeared on the website of state-run Xinhua news agency.

Text of a Xinhua news story on Obama's inauguration
Xinhua did not mention the word "communism" in its Chinese version

But in the Chinese-language version, the word "communism" was taken out.

President Obama's comments addressed to world leaders who "blame their society's ills on the West" also fell foul of the censor's red pen.

"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history," the president said.

Once again, Xinhua included the passage in full in its English version, but the sentence was taken out of the Chinese translation.

Similar changes were made to versions of the speech that appeared on other websites based in China.

And websites were not the only media organisations that struggled to report some of the comments made by President Obama.

China Central Television, the country's main broadcaster, aired the speech live with a simultaneous Chinese translation.

But when the translator got to the part where President Obama talked about facing down communism, her voice suddenly faded away.

The programme suddenly cut back to the studio, where an off-guard presenter had to quickly ask a guest a question.

Censoring sensitive news reports is nothing new in China, where officials go to great lengths to cut critical material.

These officials appear a little nervous about the arrival of a new US President, who might not be as friendly to China as President George W. Bush.

As an editorial in the state-run China Daily put it: "Given the popular American eagerness for a break from the Bush years, many wonder, or worry to be precise, whether the new president would ignore the hard-earned progress in bilateral ties."

Certainly, it would be hard to be as obtuse about China's human rights abuses and drain on our economy as was the Bush Administration. Hopefully, President Obama's new "Smart Diplomacy" can help the millions suffering within China and in its illegally occupied "regions" like Tibet.

Of course, that old guard in China should know that slowly and surely their country is shifting beneath their own feet. Freedom, like water, will always find an outlet.


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