Today's news of an attack on tourists at a popular sightseeing spot in Beijing has been handled by Xinhua News Agency alone. Other news outlets are simply re-posting its account. This is the norm for sensitive issues. Xinhua is a part of the central government's State Council and undergoes rigorous pre-censorship, which sets it apart from other Chinese news outlets (which are censored to a lesser degree). It is likely that news organizations received specific instruction from the Central Propaganda Department not to do their own reporting on the attack.
Images steal the day. Web sites around China were live-streaming the opening ceremony this evening (even as NBC insisted on broadcasting endless tips on Chinese manners, saving the Big Show for American prime time). Xinhua News Agency and People's Daily re-launched their sites to showcase photos. On 8/8/08 at 8 p.m., images beamed across the world of the magnificent firework display, a parade of national delegations (with corresponding news briefs: Brazilian delegation enters, Kenyan delegation enters, Japanese delegation enters, etc.), and Hu Jintao walking side by side into the festival with George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.
On the eve of the opening ceremony, Xinhua News Agency waxes philosophical about the torch's journey tomorrow to the Bird's Nest, its home for the next three weeks. It hasn't been an easy road, and Xinhua refers to the "obstacles" the torch encountered in foreign cities, as well as the Sichuan earthquake in May that diverted its path.
But official Chinese-language news makes no mention that I can see of the last couple of days' protests within Beijing.
Basketball star Yao Ming carried the Olympic torch through Tiananmen Square today in the triumphant final leg of a relay fraught with protest. His long-legged saunter under the gaze of Mao's portrait captured headlines in today's Web news outlets, along with speculation about who will light the torch at the opening ceremony of the Games on Friday.
Also in the news was the start of Olympic competition in Tianjin, which brought an auspicious win. The Chinese women's soccer team beat Sweden 2-1.
All the news is excellent in China today. The Web site of Xinhua News Agency today leads by telling its audience: "Olympic dream brightens the world." At the provincial levels, the news is equally good, but with a local angle. The Web site of the Southern media group reports that cooperation between south China's Guangdong province and Hong Kong is bound to improve.
Information about today's attack on border police in the western Chinese city of Kashgar is coming almost entirely from the official Xinhua News Agency. What's interesting is the huge difference in the agency's own reports, depending on what language you're reading. In English, the attack was a suspected act of terrorism by Uighur separatists. In Chinese, it barely warrants a mention, and it was described as simply a criminal act.
The media is in the news. The official Xinhua News Agency chimes in on the fracas over Web access for foreign journalists in the Olympic press center. In a commentary headlined "Do not let 'press freedom' supersede Chinese law" Xinhua defends the government's policy of blocking sensitive Web sites, repeating the justification Games spokesman Sun Weide gives journalists:
Facing massive outcry over Internet restrictions at the Olympic press center, the International Olympic Committee says it met today with Beijing organizers and that "the issues were put on the table."
In a statement issued this afternoon, the IOC says it has not made any deal that allows Internet restrictions to be imposed at the Main Press Center in Beijing. It says the IOC has been encouraged by past assurances from Chinese organizers that the media would be given "the fullest access possible" and that "we trust them to keep their promise." Here is the statement in full:
The IOC has always encouraged the Beijing 2008 organisers to provide media with the fullest access possible to report on the Olympic Games, including access to the internet.
In light of internet access problems which were experienced this week by media in the Olympic Games Main Press Centre in
, the IOC - namely Chairman of the Beijing 2008 IOC Coordination Commission Hein Verbruggen and Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli - held meetings and discussions today with Games organizers (BOCOG) and Chinese authorities. Beijing
The issues were put on the table and the IOC requested that the Olympic Games hosts address them. We understand that BOCOG will give details to the media very soon of how the matter has been addressed. We trust them to keep their promise.
The IOC would like to stress that no deal with the Chinese authorities to censor the internet has ever in any way been entered into.
With the Olympics preparations crowding the headlines, news related to the deadly May earthquake in Sichuan province has faded. There is still plenty to report, including the recovery effort and the bitter resentment of grieving parents who believe that faulty construction played a role in their children's deaths.
But a search of recent Chinese news on the quake digs up mostly official publicity on, for instance, the Education Bureau's new initiative to train teachers in the quake-affected region, the government's commitment to delivering aid to the victims, and the official reconstruction efforts.