The Communist Party is more hostile to criticism than everby George Magnus / December 17, 2019 / Leave a comment
China’s state broadcaster banned the showing of Arsenal’s home game against Manchester City over the weekend following comments made by Mesut Özil in support of the Uyghur people in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Some have charged that what’s going on there is tantamount to cultural genocide (see, for example, here). Arsenal fans in China were spared the drubbing of their team by Manchester City, but the ban speaks to a big problem that China has: its thin skin and capacity for handling criticism.
The incident comes only a few weeks after a similar sporting row involving the NBA. The head of the Houston Rockets had tweeted some critical comments in support of the protestors in Hong Kong, and the broadcaster, CCTV, banned the showing of the team’s games and Chinese corporate sponsors and the Chinese Basketball Association suspended co-operation.
China’s sensitivity, reflected in bullying, bans, state lobbying and interference, has been increasing in volume and truculence.
In 2010, it banned imports of Norwegian salmon over the Nobel award to human rights activist Liu Xiaobo. In 2012, it organised anti-Japanese protests over the disputed Senkaku (Diaoyu to China) Islands in the Pacific. It also curbed tourism to and banned banana imports from the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. In 2016, it restricted commodity imports from Mongolia over a visit there by the Dalai Lama. In 2017, it acted to curb tourism to South Korea, which had agreed to install the US-supplied THAAD missile shield.
This year, China banned a UK trade mission after the then defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, had said a UK aircraft carrier would be heading out to the South China Sea. It also accused the UK government of “gross interference” over alleged support for the Hong Kong protestors. The Financial Times journalist, Victor Mallet, was refused a visa after making critical comments involving China at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Two Australian politicians were banned from visiting China for having made critical remarks about the increasingly fractious relationship between Canberra and Beijing. Two Canadians, effectively held hostage a year ago in retaliation for the detention in Canada, pending extradition hearings, of Huawei’s chief financial officer, still languish in prison while Canadian trade has also been threatened. China has also fallen out with Sweden over the…