Overseas Chinese-language news outlets that are not owned by the Chinese government are no longer available to view for people living in mainland China. This includes a number of both private and state-run media outlets, such as those belonging to Taiwan or Hong Kong, that have been blocked from the internet.
At the same time, international English-language websites, such as the BBC, are still available to internet users in mainland China. This is mostly due to the Chinese government’s desire to promote their own version of events to the world and allow visitors to the country access to a sanitized version of events.
However, that doesn’t mean that Chinese citizens are free to view whatever English language content they wish. Content that does not agree with the Chinese Communist Party’s rhetoric is subject to filter in its entirety, and even websites that can usually be accessed are blocked on occasions of international tension.
This is a strategy employed by the Chinese government to remain in control of the narrative presented online, and limit any criticism that might be presented by news outlets from outside of China. In a country where press freedom is limited, a lack of access to real news can be damaging and hold people back from finding out the truth.
It’s a problem that the international community has started looking into, with the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression calling on China to stop the “unacceptable censorship” of these online outlets in 2018.
There have been some attempts by the Chinese government to loosen their grip on censorship in recent months, allowing some previously blocked websites to be accessed again. It is hard to say for sure if these are reliable decisions, however, as the government can flip back to its restrictive policies at any time.
Plus, any content on the outside world competing with Chinese state-sourced information is vulnerable to censorship. This means that if the Chinese government does not agree with the content being shared by overseas media outlets, they are likely to limit people’s access to it.
In spite of this, Chinese citizens who find ways to access international news sources have at least some way to find out the truth, even if not presented in a way that is acceptable to the government. Ultimately, however, if the Chinese government does not change their approach to censorship, the truth of what is happening both inside and outside of the country could be lost.