China reportedly censored Mike Pence, but not Kamala Harris, during the Vice Presidential debate


China reportedly censored Vice President Mike Pence, but not California Sen. Kamala Harris, during the vice presidential debate on Wednesday.

As Pence began to criticize Beijing’s response to COVID-19 Wednesday night, saying “China is to blame,” CNN’s feed in China suddenly cut out and the words “no signal – please stand by” appeared over a test pattern. The broadcast resumed once the debate moved on to another topic. “The interruption, which cut the debate signal to display colour bars for nearly three minutes, affected only a small number of people in China with access to channels like CNN, which is available in some hotels and residential compounds but not in most homes,” Globe and Mail Asia correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe wrote.

According to VanderKlippe, the message appeared on screen after moderator Susan Page asked Pence if China is a competitor, adversary or enemy on the heels of President Trump declaring the nation would “pay a big price” for its role in the coronavirus pandemic. “The video feed returned after Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidate, was asked a similar question. She attacked Mr. Trump’s pandemic response and enumerated some of the costs to U.S. workers from his trade battles with China. She also described Mr. Trump as less popular overseas than China’s President Xi Jinping, whose name she badly mispronounced,” VanderKlippe wrote.

“The censorship offered a vivid example of Beijing’s willingness to excise information it cannot control, even when it involves potentially important insights into relations with the country’s largest trading partner,” VanderKlippe continued. “Censors in China have always paid acute attention to domestic events, allowing a robust exchange of opinions on many social and cultural topics, but moving quickly to block criticism of the country’s leaders, discussion of historical events like the Tiananmen Square massacre or any conversation that could involve organizing resistance to the government.” VanderKlippe tweeted images of the alleged censorship, which involved a screen featuring color bars and the all-caps message, “NO SIGNAL PLEASE STAND BY.” CNN International did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The exchanges offered little of substance on China,” VanderKlippe added. “But China’s censorship of international news ensures the only information formally allowed into the country offers a skewed view of Beijing’s role in the world.” The Globe and Mail is considered a prominent newspaper north of the border and the Beijing-based VanderKlippe is among its most accomplished reporters.

During the debate, viewers who weren’t watching the censored version heard Pence criticized Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, calling him a “cheerleader for Communist China” while saying the Trump administration, which wants to “improve” relations with Beijing, will “hold China accountable” for the novel coronavirus. Pence said China is “to blame” for the coronavirus and “President Trump is not happy about it.”

“China and the World Health Organization did not play straight with the American people. They did not let our personnel into China to get information on the Coronavirus until the middle of February.” Pence said. “Fortunately, President Trump is dealing with China from the outset of this administration, standing up to China that had been taking advantage of America for decades in the wake of Joe Biden’s cheerleading for China,” he continued (NY Post). Meanwhile, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., slammed the Trump administration over the trade war with China, claiming that the U.S. lost jobs in the midst of it. But Pence fired back and said Biden “never fought” the trade war when he was in office (FOX).

The censorship comes just a month after the U.S. intelligence community accused China and Iran of attempting to undermine the incumbent president’s re-election chances in hopes of a Joe Biden presidency.

“Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” said National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina in August. “They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results. However, it would be difficult for our adversaries to interfere with or manipulate voting results at scale.”


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