SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A China media watchdog has urged customs to intensify checks of luggage entering China to block “harmful publications,” said the official Xinhua news service, as Beijing executes a selective crackdown on imported media in the name of social order.
The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications, during a meeting in the southern city of Zhuhai, called for customs officials to check all luggage crossing the border at certain key checkpoints for “harmful publications,” according to a meeting circular quoted by Xinhua.
The Xinhua report said that the circular did not define what constitutes a harmful publication. Print publications are already tightly screened for dissident material smuggled across the Hong Kong border.
Over the weekend, Beijing blocked Chinese websites from delivering four popular U.S. television shows, including the relatively innocuous but highly popular “The Big Bang Theory,” attracting widespread popular criticism from Chinese fans.
The campaign not only threatens revenues at foreign content providers but has dented share values for Chinese Internet companies like Sina Corp, which runs China’s popular Weibo Corp microblog service — a frequent target of censors — and video websites like Youku Tudou.
Reuters reported on Monday that the central government-owned network CCTV had bought the exclusive rights to broadcast “The Big Bang Theory”, raising the question of whether China was more concerned about the show’s content or its the impact on state-owned broadcaster revenue.
In the past, foreign media and publishing companies, like Google, have been blocked, banned or attacked in state media for serving as channels for pornography or immoral influence.
Critics say such campaigns are more about protecting domestic media companies’ market share and suppressing political criticism than defending sexual mores.
Reporting by Pete Sweeney; Editing by Michael Perry