Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service Group, stated that “the BBC strongly condemns any attempts to restrict free access to news and information and we are protesting to the Chinese authorities. This appears to be deliberate censorship.”
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Reuters has claimed that the Chinese Communist Party censors blocked the BBC’s English-language website on Wednesday, and it remained inaccessible as of Thursday morning.
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The official response of the Chinese government came from Hong Lei, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry. When questioned as to whether the BBC website had indeed been blocked, he told Reuters that the country enjoyed “full Internet freedom.”
“At the same time, the Chinese government manages the Internet in accordance with the law,” he added.
Room for maneuver
The vague allusion to the “law” affords China significant wiggle room on this issue. Just a few days ago, one Chinese official claimed that foreign media coverage of the Hong Kong protests had not been objective, and reiterated the need for foreign media coverage to remain impartial.
“We hope the outside world will respect … the Hong Kong [Special Administrative Region] government to deal with the situation in accordance with the law and does not send any wrong signal to this unlawful activity,” said the official.
His statement may have come as a response to BBC reports of an investigation into allegations that police were using excessive force against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The story featured video footage of a protester being beaten by a group of officers, as well as highlighting the use of pepper spray and batons by authorities.
The BBC has previously found itself in hot water with the Chinese authorities. The English-language site was “disrupted” around the same time that Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng escaped from house arrest, and was also blocked when Liu Xiaobo received his Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.