China pollution film disappears from local video sites

Mon Mar 9, 2015 4:56am EDT
 
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BEIJING (Reuters) - A popular documentary on China's struggles with pollution was inaccessible on the country's video sharing websites on Saturday, sparking concern from Chinese Internet users that it had been censored within a week of its launch.

"Under the Dome", a film by journalist Chai Jing that explains air pollution in straightforward terms, spurred a national debate after its release last weekend and quickly garnered hundreds of millions of views on streaming video sites.

Its removal will likely be seen as underscoring the government's prime focus on maintaining social stability. The ruling Communist Party has previously described tackling pollution as a top priority and promised greater transparency on the subject.

Just on Thursday, at the opening of the annual session of parliament, Premier Li Keqiang called pollution a blight on people's lives and vowed to step up efforts to combat it.

In a sign of the sensitivity around the issue, no reporters from major foreign news outlets were called on to ask a question at a news conference held by the environment minister on Saturday. The issue of Chai's film being pulled from the Internet did not come up in the questions that were asked.

The film started becoming inaccessible on the country's biggest online video sharing websites late on Friday.

By Saturday morning, it was inaccessible on all the major video sites, as well as a number of smaller video sites, with users getting error messages when they tried to play it.

Neither internet regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China, nor the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television responded to requests for comment.

Youku Tudou Inc, Tencent Holdings Ltd, Sohu.com Inc and iQiyi, the online video service of Baidu Inc, which operate video streaming services, also did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Chai, the filmmaker.   Continued...