Thursday, January 22, 2009

censoring obama's inaugural address

Several media and blog sources are reporting the Chinese government's censorship of Obama's inaugural address. From the AP:
At one point, Obama said earlier generations "faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions." He later addressed "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent — know that you are on the wrong side of history."

Translations of the speech on China's most popular online portals, Sina and Sohu, were missing the word "communism" in the first sentence. The paragraph with the sentence on dissent had been removed.
Although I trust the AP's reporting, I still wanted to verify this for myself. has a special inauguration page here:

(Interesting side note: the header refers to him as "Jr.," which I've never seen in the Western media, and is not used on his official White House page.)

From Sina's inauguration page, clicking 发表演说 takes you to a page featuring both a video of the speech and the supposed complete text (全文). Let's take a closer look at both sensitive instances.

He says "communism" at 10:14 in the video. The video is not edited (as it was during the CCTV live broadcast), but the subtitle omits the word:

Original English: "Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks"

Subtitle: "他们不仅仅是靠导弹和坦克击败法西斯主义" ("They didn't merely rely on missiles and tanks to defeat fascism")

The text on the site is slightly different from the subtitle ("回想先辈们在抵抗法西斯主义之时,他们不仅依靠手中的导弹或坦克"), but still omits "communism."

Now let's take a look at the second part, about dissent. This portion starts around 12:50 on the video.

Again, the video itself is not edited, although the subtitles appear to use the word "suppress" instead of "silence."

Original English: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent"

Subtitles: "对于那些通过腐败、欺骗和镇压异见者来攫取权力的领导人" ("To those leaders who grab power by corruption, deception, and suppression of dissenters")

In any case, although the censorship of the subtitles doesn't appear to be too heavy, that of the text version of the speech is. As indicated in the AP article, an entire paragraph is omitted. From what I can tell, these are lines of the speech that are omitted from the Chinese text version on
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 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, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
I think the title of Austin's post at the Time China blog captures very concisely the depressing irony here: "the silencing of 'silencing of dissent'".

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