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Chinese government TV censors World Cup to avoid showing maskless fans as Covid protests rage

Images like this wide shot of Canada fans in their FIFA World Cup match against Croatia weren't censored in China

Chinese football fans have received a censored feed from the FIFA World Cup in Qatar as politicians desperately try to prevent images of large unmasked crowds from reaching locals as protests rage against the severe Covid measures.

FIFA has tightly controlled the viewing of the World Cup and every nation is getting the same feed – with the exception of China.

A comparison of footage from the Cup shows broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) intercepted footage of the tournament and doctored footage of the crowd using a 30-second delay.

Images like this wide shot of Canada fans in their FIFA World Cup match against Croatia weren't censored in China

Images like this wide shot of Canada fans in their FIFA World Cup match against Croatia weren’t censored in China

The vision showing fans without masks has been removed because while most of the world has passed pandemic lockdown measures, China still faces severe restrictions under its Covid Zero policy.

Parts of the People’s Republic of China are still in lockdown, Chinese residents have been forced to take daily Covid tests and large street protests have erupted with demonstrators calling on politicians to step down.

Protests have intensified since a deadly fire at a Urumqi unit compound in the western Xinjiang region killed 10 people two days ago. The building was under lockdown despite being classified as low risk for Covid.

Covid Zero, the strict policy put in place by Chinese President Xi Jinping, has been widely criticized with a record number of cases across the country as the virus surges.

Civil disobedience increased across the country, including passive protests and outright opposition to the Communist Party, Jinping and controversial politics.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) East Asia correspondent Bill Birtles showed the shocking difference in vision China receives using side-by-side comparisons to the SBS World Cup stream that Australians appreciate.

“So I thought it was BS that the Chinese government broadcaster was censoring fan footage at the World Cup due to the anger of the lockdown at home. But it’s true,” he said. he posted on Twitter.

‘Here are the live streams of SBS & CCTV (which has a 32 second delay). As @DreyerChina explained, CCTV avoids crowd close-ups:

Instead of the crowd, the CCTV view focuses on close-ups on the touchline and today showed footage of Canada manager John Herdman while the rest of the world had fans celebrating

Instead of the crowd, the CCTV view focuses on close-ups on the touchline and today showed footage of Canada manager John Herdman while the rest of the world had fans celebrating

‘Here is the Canadian goal from the same game. The international stream everyone is getting shows the fans up close. CCTV replaces these shots with coach feeds or wide shots. Watched 2 games – very obvious. It’s flawed though – one cheering fan snuck into the replay:

“So the usual suspects will claim that China’s government television CCTV doesn’t censor close-ups of the crowd because a few shots play…or they choose to use different shots…but that’s very clear. Although a friend in Beijing told me he didn’t notice anything unusual,” he concluded with a laughing emoji.

Former Sky Sports, Fox Sports and AP Sports employee Mark Dreyer set up China Sports Insider in 2013 and he also pointed out the censored view on Twitter.

“Some people still refusing to see this, so decided to follow him.” Within a minute there was this: close-ups of Canadian and Croatian fans on the BBC/international feed, replaced by a solo shot of Canadian coach John Herdman on CCTV,’ he posted.

“Moments later, Croatia scored. The rest of the world saw pictures of cheerful Croatian fans, but on CCTV they showed close-up shots of the two coaches. Case rested.

The censorship comes as a BBC journalist covering an anti-lockdown protest in China was arrested during wild protests against Xi Jinping’s dictatorship and Covid lockdowns in seven Chinese cities including Shanghai, Nanjing and Guangzhou .

The BBC’s Edward Lawrence is a cameraman for the company’s China office and was filmed being taken away by Xi’s officers as he cried desperately, “Call the consulate now!” to a friend.

Hours before his arrest, Lawrence had tweeted: ‘I am at the scene of last night’s extraordinary anti Covid-zero protest in Shanghai. Many people are gathered here to watch quietly. Lots of cops. Two girls left flowers which were quickly removed by the police. A man walked past the police with his middle finger. #shanghai’.

Police arrest people during a protest against Covid curbs at the site of a candlelight vigil for victims of the Urumqi fire in Shanghai

Police arrest people during a protest against Covid curbs at the site of a candlelight vigil for victims of the Urumqi fire in Shanghai

He was held for several hours before being released and a BBC spokesperson expressed concern about his treatment.

“The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering protests in Shanghai,” the spokesperson said.

People gather for a vigil and hold white sheets of paper to protest Covid restrictions, as they commemorate fire victims in Urumqi, as Covid outbreaks continue in Beijing

People gather for a vigil and hold white sheets of paper to protest Covid restrictions, as they commemorate fire victims in Urumqi, as Covid outbreaks continue in Beijing

“During his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police. This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist.

“It is very worrying that one of our journalists was attacked in this way in the exercise of his functions. We have had no official explanation or apology from the Chinese authorities, beyond a claim by the officials who later released him that they arrested him for his own good in case he caught Covid from the mob . We do not consider this to be a credible explanation.

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