The landmark documentary about China’s catastrophic air pollution by former CCTV reporter Chai Jing has been deleted from major Chinese video websites on Friday afternoon, under the apparent orders of the central propaganda department.
Before being taken down, the video had received more than 200 million views on Chinese video websites and sparked much debate among ordinary Chinese citizens. The recently appointed environmental protection minister, Chen Jining, even praised the documentary, saying it should “encourage efforts by individuals to improve air quality.”
In her career with state broadcaster CCTV, Chai Jing became a household name for her investigative stories about China’s SARS outbreak, pollution and the country’s gay community. She resigned from her role after giving birth last year, and spent her time and money instead producing the 103-minute long film, reportedly at a cost of a million yuan.
The silencing of the video just one day after the opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress has given way to talk of a behind-the-scenes turf war between the powers-that-be in Beijing as well as a slew of conspiracy theories.
News that the video had been deleted was met with widespread disbelief on Sina Weibo, China’s biggest microblogging platform. “Those who have seen the video would already have seen it. Those who haven’t seen it don’t care. Those who have seen the video would have already taken its message to heart, so deleting this video was just unnecessary. What a bunch of brain-damaged fools!” fumed Weibo user @下辈子火星球皇.
“This is incredible,” wrote @Lord_毅. “I was too lazy to watch the video before they deleted it. Now that they have deleted it, it’s really piqued my interest.”
“Now that Chai Jing’s video has been deleted, the smog will soon be no more,” wrote @tkqcheng with a touch of sarcasm. “Society is now full of positive energy again as the minions return to CCTV’s Xinwen Lianbo full of bright hopes for the future.”
@DemonLZH opined, “The censorship of the documentary proves two points. First, that she’s not an wumao. Second, what a sad state this country with its five thousand years of civilisation has become.”
In an online poll conducted by Sina Weibo, 75.2% of respondents indicated they had little faith in the effectiveness of anti-pollution measures in recent years.
Read Shanghaiist’s summary of the documentary and watch it here.