Chinese TV edits out live crowd shots from World Cup as 'Zero Covid' backlash grows in China and protests erupt

28 November 2022, 09:28 | Updated: 28 November 2022, 09:41

Chinese TV has been censoring World Cup footage, replacing cheering fans (L) with footage of managers and players
Chinese TV has been censoring World Cup footage, replacing cheering fans (L) with footage of managers and players. Picture: Social Media

By Asher McShane

China’s TV has been censoring live World Cup feeds to stop the country’s citizens from seeing images of thousands of people without masks celebrating together.

Comparisons of footage played by China Central Television company (CCTV) shows that the visuals from the tournament are being carefully edited to show players, coaches and managers celebrating while viewers outside China will see images of cheering crowds.

The crowd shots are being removed because while most of the world has moved on from Covid-19 lockdown measures, China still faces harsh restrictions.

Some regions of China are still in lockdown, with residents forced to take Covid tests every day, and large protests have erupted.

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In one comparison filmed during yesterday’s Croatia vs Canada game, Croatia can be seen equalizing in the 36th minute. In footage shown outside China, players celebrate and then the footage cuts to a shot of the jubilant Croatian fans.

But in version played on CCTV, after the goal, the camera immediately switches to the Croatian bench celebrating.

More protests have erupted across China in the latest reaction to the country’s Zero Covid policy.

China is facing its largest anti-government demonstrations since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, with protests erupting in at least seven cities over the country's strict Covid rules. 

The latest wave of protests is believed to have erupted after a fire broke out in the city of Urumqi in which 10 people died. Residents claimed lockdown rules hindered their rescue and escape.

During the protests, a BBC journalist was arrested and beaten, with Chinese officials going on to claim he was detained ‘for his own good’ in case he caught Covid-19 from the crowd.

Edward Lawrence, a cameraman attached to the BBC’s China Bureau, was seen being dragged away by officers screaming “call the consulate now.”

He was beaten and kicked by police and held in custody for several hours before being released.

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai. He was held for several hours before being released. 

“During his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police. This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist.

“It is very worrying that one of our journalists was attacked in this way whilst carrying out his duties. We have had no official explanation or apology from the Chinese authorities, beyond a claim by the officials who later released him that they had arrested him for his own good in case he caught Covid from the crowd. We do not consider this a credible explanation.”