ABC queried over Chinese Govt censorship of website

The ABC has been questioned over Chinese Government influence on an “information” website it operates within the east-Asian powerhouse.

Queensland Senator James McGrath queried whether there was any censorship of content on the australiaplus.cn website, which is the world’s first western media website to be registered in China.

“Do the Chinese authorities vet any of the material on the website?” Senator McGrath asked during the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee estimates hearing.

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott assured the site was free of interference... but clarified that content deemed questionable by China may not survive.

“There is no pre-publication vetting of that website, or content that goes on that website, by the Chinese Government,” Mr Scott said.

“We operate that site with the permission of the Chinese Government and if the Chinese Government decided there was material they did not want to be seen by people in China, then they can act accordingly and withdraw our permission to broadcast.”

Mr Scott added Chinese Government authorities had previously blocked access in China of the ABC’s Australian-based websites as well as websites like the New York Times.

The issue is of particular interest to Senator McGrath, who is a strong advocate for personal freedom and freedom of speech.

“I’m concerned that the website is vetted almost by default as the ABC would almost second-guess itself regarding content in fear of losing the right to exist in China,” he said later.

He noted during the hearing, the website must adhere to China’s internet rules and therefore must not threaten Chinese national unity and be consistent with the teachings of the likes of Mao Zedong.

“There is no vetting process that’s been made, there were no deals or undertakings that were given, the Chinese Government understood the kind of website that we were seeking to offer, they approved that,” Mr Scott had earlier said.

He described australiaplus.cn as “an information website rather than a news website” that hosted a mix of stories about business, education and travel.

“An agreed aspiration (is) that this website will become the place that someone in China, interested in information about Australia, to come.”

Mr Scott took on notice a question asking if any Chinese Government officials had been in contact with the ABC about any content.

Queensland Senator James McGrath queried whether there was any censorship of content on the australiaplus.cn website, which is the world’s first western media website to be registered in China.

“Do the Chinese authorities vet any of the material on the website?” Senator McGrath asked during the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee estimates hearing.

ABC Managing Director Mark Scott assured the site was free of interference... but clarified that content deemed questionable by China may not survive.

“There is no pre-publication vetting of that website, or content that goes on that website, by the Chinese Government,” Mr Scott said.

“We operate that site with the permission of the Chinese Government and if the Chinese Government decided there was material they did not want to be seen by people in China, then they can act accordingly and withdraw our permission to broadcast.”

Mr Scott added Chinese Government authorities had previously blocked access in China of the ABC’s Australian-based websites as well as websites like the New York Times.

The issue is of particular interest to Senator McGrath, who is a strong advocate for personal freedom and freedom of speech. 

“I’m concerned that the website is vetted almost by default as the ABC would almost second-guess itself regarding content in fear of losing the right to exist in China,” he said later.

He noted during the hearing, the website must adhere to China’s internet rules and therefore must not threaten Chinese national unity and be consistent with the teachings of the likes of Mao Zedong.

“There is no vetting process that’s been made, there were no deals or undertakings that were given, the Chinese Government understood the kind of website that we were seeking to offer, they approved that,” Mr Scott had earlier said.

He described australiaplus.cn as “an information website rather than a news website” that hosted a mix of stories about business, education and travel. 

 “An agreed aspiration (is) that this website will become the place that someone in China, interested in information about Australia, to come.”

Mr Scott took on notice a question asking if any Chinese Government officials had been in contact with the ABC about any content.