It’s early Monday morning and the China twitterati are abuzz with the news that all major Chinese web sites have been ordered to shutdown for the three days of national mourning which begins today. Here is an announcement sent out by the government in Hefei, Anhui, followed by Shanghaiist’s translation. Good reason to believe similar announcements have been sent in other provinces and municipalities:
To all propaganda departments, online propaganda units and foreign affairs offices, and to the various bureaus and websites in all cities and counties:
The State Council has gazetted May 19-21 as national days for mourning. In line with the spirit of the Central Foreign Affairs Office’s emergency notice, the requirements are as follows:
1. All websites are to immediately report and give priority to reports on the national mourning days declared by the Central Government, the State Council and in your province. While spreading the word online, also exhaust all mobile means including SMS, MMS, etc. The statement by the State Council is to be given priority spacing on the home page of all major websites.
2. All websites are to stop all entertainment activities and services for three days. From May 19 00:00 to May 21 24:00, all gaming websites and gaming channels of major portals are to shut down; Cover all entertainment channels on websites and programmes with a message of mourning, and none of the other pages within these channels should be accessible; All entertainment BBS’s are to be shut; All music and video search functions at search engine portals to be shut; All entertainment advertisements should be offline.
3. Thorough organisation of the online mourning campaign. The online atmosphere of all portals should be in line with the national mourning period. All news portals and commercial portals are to organise online mourning campaigns that allow for participation by netizens, and should reflect the grief and patriotism of netizens in an all-round manner.
4. Thoroughly manage online discussion. All propaganda bureaus and foreign affairs offices in all cities and counties to operate on a 24 hour basis, and each shift is to have a supervisor. For implementation details please call Online Propaganda Bureau (0551-2606017)
5. Proper implementation. All propaganda bureaus and foreign affairs offices and all relevant departments are to work together and to get the above instructions to all news portals, commercial portals, government portals under their control, and mobilise all resources to supervise the implementation. All propaganda bureaus and foreign affairs offices in various cities and all staff are to be involved to ensure a timely and proper implementation of the work instructions.
6. Strict discipline for those departments, localities and websites that have not kept in line with standards. Closure awaits non-compliant portals and investigation to follow to pinpoint responsibility.
As you can see, all of the above opens up lots of questions as to how things will be implemented. Marc van der Chijs of Shanghai-based Tudou tweets, ” People at our company are working to find best way to temporarily shut down game.com.cn and xiaoyouxi.com. Most other sites are still live.”
It remains uncertain if cinemas and bars will be ordered to shut too but John Kennedy of Global Voices reveals in a tweet: “Zhang Xiaozhou mentions friend in Shenzhen ordered to shut his bar down for these 3 days“.
Andrew Lih tweets: “Whoa, not just HBO and Cinemax blacked out here in my Beijing apartment, but AXN, Discovery Channel and other “entertainment” channels”
Andrew Lih : “GFW: Very possible a whole slew of sites will be blocked the next three days in China, re: State Council edict. Youtube inaccessible 4 me”
And again: “CCTV flag raising, live”
And yet again: “CCTV: “all public entertainment” cancelled for three days in China”
UPDATE 1: We haven’t seen any major portals “shut down” yet, but this is what Sina, Sohu, Tudou, Youku, and 163 now look like. In some cases, it’s really just a major overkill of the black and “mourning banners” repeated ad nauseum.
UPDATE 2: Imagethief comments on the post-quake entertainment blackout:
Total scope and implications are not yet clear. Much of the discussion on Twitter right now is concerned with how websites are likely to circumvent any ban or benefit from a more easily enforced television ban. But it might just be taking time for orders to ripple through the system and be implemented. A cinema website I looked at this morning didn’t say anything. But in my apartment right now all Chinese channels are carrying news and all non-news foreign channels are blacked out. Of course, I can still watch some airhead on CNN talking about Indiana Jones, but I guess some entertainment was destined to slip through. YouTube is also blacked out. After much early back-and-forth, the Olympic torch relay will also be suspended for three days.
A national mourning period is perfectly appropriate. I find the the possibility of a broad entertainment blackout a bit strange. Perhaps watching a vulgar sitcom is inappropriate under the circumstances, but Imagethief doesn’t feel that people need to be prompted to mourn under the current circumstances. The flood of terrible photos of death and grief have pretty much ensured an appropriately sober national mood.
In a period of disaster the government is naturally preoccupied with its domestic audience, as it should be. However if the entertainment and Internet blackout turns out to be comprehensive, it could end a stretch during which international press coverage of China has been largely sympathetic and positive, with much discussion of the openness with which the quake has been covered. Exercising of government fiat over of a broad swathe of private business in the interest of enforcing a period of national mourning is the kind of thing that would remind everyone that, “Grandpa Wen” or not, the recent openness might have just been a brief honeymoon.
UPDATE 3: CIO.com: China Mourning Suspends Entertainment Web Sites
UPDATE 4: Online gaming companies WOW China and Shanda has also shut down and here is their press release on the three days of suspension.