A state-owned Chinese media organisation has criticised the ABC in an editorial, saying Australia’s national broadcaster has long held an “agressive attitude towards China”.
- The editorial comes after the ABC’s website and apps were blocked in China
- It suggested the ABC aims “to sway Chinese society with Western freedom of speech”
- The BBC and the New York Times have also been blocked in China
The piece, published in the Global Times newspaper, comes after it was revealed that the ABC’s website and apps have been blocked in China, for “violating China’s laws and regulations”.
The Chinese Government has declined to explicitly say how the ABC violated those laws and regulations.
The Global Times wrote that the ABC “hyped” news of the ban “intensively to attract the attention of the Western world”.
The paper suggested the ABC’s Chinese language website aims “to sway Chinese society with Western freedom of speech and benefit themselves in both ideology and business”.
“It’s easy to imagine how ABC was annoyed when the website was banned in China,” the editorial said.
“But ABC reacts most fiercely, quite similar to the way Canberra handles its conflict with Beijing.”
The ABC declined to comment on the newspaper’s editorial.
The Global Times is a tabloid subsidiary of the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece.
It often takes a more hawkish line on foreign affairs than the broader government-controlled media.
However Graeme Smith, fellow at the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University, said the paper’s views should not be discounted.
“The Global Times is the most extreme nationalist wing … it represents an element of the Government I would say, but it certainly doesn’t represent the Chinese Government as a whole,” he said.
“That’s not to say you should ignore what they say, it exists for a reason and it exists for the purpose of signalling to countries such as Australia.
“It cannot transmit signals without permission at a fairly high level.”
When asked whether the article was representative of the Chinese Government’s view, the Chinese embassy recommended the ABC refer to the Foreign Ministry’s remarks.
“As we know, ABC is funded by the Australian government. We would like to ask you if ABC’s reports represent the belief of the government,” an embassy spokesperson said.
Asked for clarification on the exact reason behind the ABC block at a press conference this week, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said:
“I have seen your relevant report and also noted that your report said you have asked China’s cyberspace administration authority. What’s more, your report has cited the response from the relevant authority in details, so I believe you are quite clear about this question.”
ABC joins a growing list of blocked news sites
The ABC is just the latest foreign media organisation to be blocked by Chinese authorities.
Earlier last month the BBC was blocked after changing its security web link from HTTP to HTTPS.
The BBC said the decision gave additional privacy to users, and made it far more difficult for internet service providers to track or block individual news stories.
Dr Smith suggested the bans on the BBC and the ABC may have been intended as a “signal to the host government”.
“There is a misguided perception that the state media outlet is connected to the government,” he said.
“The BBC is perceived in the same way, and the ABC is assumed to be in some way close to the Australian state and the Australian Government.”
China’s Great Firewall has also blocked the Guardian, Bloomberg and the New York Times, who have all published controversial stories about the wealth of President Xi Jinping and the country’s political elite.
Newswire service Reuters is also blocked, however unlike many of its foreign media predecessors, it was not blocked after any particular discriminating stories about the Government.
Intention of ban difficult to pinpoint
The decision to ban the ABC comes after the Australian Government’s decision to exclude two Chinese companies from being a part of the 5G mobile network — the biggest affected being the tech giant Huawei.
It was a major blow for the company, prompting a response from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which urged the Australian Government to “abandon ideological prejudice”.
“In retaliatory terms, there’s a limit to what they can strike at in Australia, so they have to go to the next best thing, which is our broadcaster and digital media,” Dr Smith said.
However, he adds that it’s difficult to be clear about the intentions behind the Chinese Government’s decisions.
“The two things you can point to is the Huawei ban … and the Morrison Government,” Dr Smith said.
“I suspect they want the new Government to take a different tone to China, having been very critical about Turnbull’s approach.”
China has also banned more obscure content, particularly content which mocks or criticises Mr Xi.
Images of the cartoon bear Winnie the Pooh have been blocked online, after internet memes that compared the President to the character emerged.
The letter N was also briefly blocked, to silence criticism of Mr Xi’s bid to be able to be president for life.
While it is not entirely clear why, experts say it’s likely that the government feared that the letter referred to the number of terms in office — where N is a mathematical term for which the value is still unknown.
The words “lifelong”, “immortality” and “disagree” were also blocked at the same time.