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Egyptian revolt's ripple effect on Chinese news

By Julia Hahn, Columnist

By now, most people by now have at least heard about the large amounts of unrest occurring in Egypt. Other countries, including China, are watching these current events. The countries watching are nervous about the unrest but so far seem powerless to affect the outcome.

China's worries and concerns can be paralleled to America's; China lacks the influence America holds in the Middle East, so the country has decided to stay somewhat neutral on the crisis.

It is especially staying neutral in regards to protests calling for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Two weeks ago, when China was asked on its view about the new Egyptian government, which promised economic and political reforms, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei released a statement saying "we hope that Egypt will return to stability and normal order as soon as possible."

Most of China's concern actually rests at home, where authorities are more concerned with preserving normal order. The authorities fear that Chinese citizens will be inspired by Egyptian protests. The country is issuing strict orders to limit the press coverage of the protests so that not much of it will reach home. According to a very restrictive order issued in China two weeks ago, all media nationwide is required to use Xinhua, a large news agency in China, as the primary source on the riots. Nationwide media is also forbidden to translate foreign media coverage. Any websites that do not censor Egyptian news will be shut down by force.

One major reason for the censorship is that China is unsure of the direction of the protests; uncertainty never fairs well in Beijing. This censorship shows that China is definitely nervous about the happenings in Egypt, and it also shows their intentions. Hiding news from the public is an obvious red flag. Two weeks ago, a Chinese site similar to Twitter didn't even have any search results for Egypt but a Hong Kong based TV network was streaming live from Cairo without interference.

The current news reports on Internet news portals are all coming from the news agency Xinhua, which provides neutral stories that often focus on hundreds of Chinese citizens trapped at an airport in Cairo, instead of the actual revolts.

In an oversight of the Chinese government, users' comments on these stories are not being deleted. However, these comments seem equally split between the political situation in China and the events in Egypt.

Regardless of the different degrees of censorship the Chinese government is placing on this news, the fact remains that they are still censoring. Forbidding information from getting to the people is wrong; it makes no difference of how it is done. In the day and age we live in, censoring what people see on the Internet is taking away most people's daily intake of news.

Perhaps if the Chinese wasn't already so restrictive it would not be scared of its people being inspired to revolt against their own government. A government has no right to keep world news from its people. If this kind of behavior continues, then we are going to have an Orwellian world in which the government has complete and total control over the media.

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