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China removes US online shows

A scene from The Big Bang Theory, one of the US television shows banned in China

Beijing, April 28 (Reuters): There can be no Internet freedom without order, China’s top Communist Party newspaper said today after several US television shows were pulled from Chinese video sites, the latest signs of Beijing’s tightening grip on online content.

The removal of the shows coincides with a broad crackdown on online freedom of expression that has intensified since President Xi Jinping came to power last year and drawn criticism from rights advocates at home and abroad.

Authorities last week also stepped up their battle against pornography, revoking some online publication licences of one of China’s largest Internet firms, Sina Corp, for allowing “lewd and pornographic” content.

“While ordinary people and governments have enjoyed the conveniences brought by the Internet, they have also in turn experienced the Internet's negative effects and hidden security dangers,” the People’s Daily, the party's main mouthpiece, said in a commentary.

It was published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give views on foreign policy.

“If you don’t have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom? Anyone enjoying and exercising their Internet rights and freedoms must not harm the public interest and cannot violate laws and regulations and public ethics,” the paper said.

Four US television shows, The Big Bang Theory, The Practice, The Good Wife and NCIS, were removed from video websites at the weekend by the government, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The series are all popular and it was not clear why these particular programmes had been singled out.

Searches on Youku Tudou, Sohu and Tencent , which provide the shows, produced messages that the content was temporarily unavailable.

“I believe it’s a standalone event and it doesn’t represent a policy change toward American TV shows,” Sohu CEO Charles Zhang told a conference call with reporters.

The directive, he said, gave no explanation for the take-down notice and he declined to comment further. Youku Tudou and Tencent declined comment on the order.

Earlier today, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said it had acquired the exclusive broadcasting rights for The Big Bang Theory, but did not specify whether or not the licence was only for TV.

The removal of the shows followed a directive from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television last month that tightened the process for broadcasting television programmes and short films online.

 
 
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