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China's journalism crackdown…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts from BBC Radio 4 today we're talking about what it's like to report on China as protests sweep the country and it's 25 years since the UK's rockstar games created Grand Theft Auto is it a prized cultural export or the mirror?

the sound of protest in Guangzhou South China one of many that began over the weekend there on a scale that hasn't been seen for more than 30 years as demonstrators rail against their countries David policy with me to discuss the challenges of reporting the protests and wider press freedom in China Howard young editor of the BBC's China service Joseph men technology reporter at post and yuan jang Europe China correspondent at the Financial Times welcome to you all and I'd like to start by talking about what's been happening to journalists covering Chinese anti-lockdown demonstration this was the BBC Z Lawrence on Sunday

He was beaten by police in Shanghai and briefly arrested as he covered a protest there you and you recently left China after 6 years in Beijing for the ft.

What's your reaction to the treatment of journalists during the protests and not the only journalist who attended also writer journalist and author many Chinese domestic John lesson system journalist who were treated by roughly and detained and sadly his account so we can't hear as clearly as as as this is really the combination.

I think of the series of years of professional journalists that started to become more intense under present.

She's authoritarian leadership of China we seen last 4 years being harassed and followed around and tailed when they travel outside of the major cities particularly in the region of xinjiang where the government has a complete security lock down on the weekend Muslim minority.

I think I've seen in Shanghai in the prison Shanghai but police sometime indiscriminately been beating up people including people they filming that the protest such as such as the BBC journalist Lawrence is Sally protection on how protests are treating genetic research now in China and you can close contact with you jealous working and shining presumably other jealous as well.

There would be this is not unusual these days absolutely and I used to describe two people just imagine you're seeing the dial and with North Korea as one end been tolerance on any reporting and the west open media you can do whatever you want almost and trying to use to be in the late 70s starting and to be moving towards the middle and the giving slightly more the way to freedom of speech and freedom of thought that all of a sudden the starting back and then.

Shooting pain since August 2020 12 01459 words you start to see this is getting closer and closer ever to back to the North Korea so that's just happening in Southport it out there a domestic Chinese journalist woodface much harsher treatment, how is there a difference to your mind in how the state treats national Domestic journalist from the likes of headlines from the BBC on the chinese traditionally have this thing about face so for internationalist they tend to try to keep an area of legitimacy for themselves.

So they cannot come off to them.

They were first sort out the message before they go out exactly before this to go after the international but I'm at certain point when they think is really really serious.

They will go after anybody.

China that was for the last 6 years is that as a foreign national with a British passport if the work it's the worst you can probably leave any point you for the Protection of your embassy and you have a hopefully I'll speak out for you and make recommendations for the Chinese side if anything does happen to you, but your Chinese national you have those protections so the most important to find John Lewis to put his protection resources who don't have the same to you to leave as you do at the phone journalist and how does it mean in journalism Asian Descent a more likely to find it difficult to work in China if you do not make them aware that your foreign passport holder and now tell if you look at all the international organisations calculated like numbers there 23s Chinese Bucksburn passport holder journalist in jail in China this moment but in terms of domestic journalist the number goes over 100.

If not you no more than that so that.

what's the quickly give you a glands of the situation over 100 ml jail domestically the only one or two with foreign passport, but I'm looking what is it like being a journalist working in China would share of the foreign Correspondents club in China the country and and surveys done less severe about their working conditions and what we've seen in their surveys you on here is that over last 3 years what the person that's in those is of the covid restrictions be an additional control for jealous about half of the general surveys last year was told to leave an area because for their own inverted commas safety officer public safety reasons when in fact there was no cover for them to leave I'll be quarantined so the tracking apparatus that the government has created like the health kit that shows up on you at on your mobile phone that shows as a traffic light system green or red or Orange

With Gary are not those kind of tracking systems can also be used to track John listen to restrict unless access ok, so they're using covid as an excuse.

How what other methods does the state used to restrict pressreader either open or covered surveillance and also on your mobile phone.

That is a really good point because now people used to eat out the vans that can use mobile phone systems are how you don't even need cash anymore.

You can go anywhere do anything with your mobile phone the trouble is you've handed off every bit of control over any individual life now to the state because trying to does not have internet or internet so the state controls all data down to where do you have been an hour? Where did you have your snack? Where did you buy anything so with that level control and just a matter of time before anybody can't really move without any operation that it's it's it's become.

And of course we do know that the Chinese state goes to Great lengths to suppress information getting to its citizens and the protesters have been holding up.

Thanks sheets of paper symbolising censorship Joseph men in Washington to bring you in here Twitter is blocked in China but you had a story as the process took place that the site was being flooded by spam accounts effectively a ruse to hide.

What was really that's right.

It's people get to Twitter to various ways virtual private networks is one of the others weekend and NN Twitter is is not is not censored directly in China because the company doesn't have much any presents they're so if you can get to it you can find out what's going on in this case over the weekend if you were searching for news from a city with her protests erupt in and seeing just typed in you know Shanghai or Beijing or whatever into into the Twitter search.

You get the flood of ads for escorts another unmentionable things and you'll be very frustrating you would be able to find the news and unfortunately schematic a really good time for Twitter prepared for it.

Just explain a bit more.

What was happening.

So you were getting on Twitter you're looking for a site that you looking for information about a protest and instead you finding information about a sex worker who's putting that a hot? What was going on in isn't precise in this case it is a technique that has been used by government operators before in a couple of minutes several years ago.

I mean the most common thing.

Is it you looking for information about xinjiang you'll get like happy to essaouira people who appear to be happy to us domestic tourists saying how lovely is your windows are basically run by government and our listeners is where you know we know with these reported about camps full of the Muslims

Right in the bottle used to the adult content technique against individuals in the past so then mentions of a specific person or treating at a person with all this garbage.

So that if you don't care about me and somebody a protester somebody said something critical and you're looking them up.

You just see garbage and Twitter in the past, but it was a different Twitter 2 months ago.

I just remind your who is nervous Elon Musk bought the thing a month ago now.

I was exactly and the staff is going from 7502 ballpark.

2000 people and unfortunately within their or lot of the experts on foreign influence operations propaganda another techniques.

So they were just language specials to do just woke up to deal with it.

I suppose the reason why this matters though when it comes to China is.

That you know in the past information found on social media has been really crucial really key to other civil uprising.

I think that's not lost on the Chinese leadership and presents himself talked about the dangers of the Jasmine revolutions and uprisings that were fuelled in part by people's access to patient.

I think that's why the government has invested so much increasing this great firewall of censorship within China however.

It does take human decision-making to to make it work and in the first few days of the protest at the of the weekend.

There's a lot of getting past and Spencer's because people were in this cat and mouse game people trying to invent new ways of being sarcastic on you jokes that are not immediately obvious about the protest with a little bit I saw it.

Would be seen as a negative criticisms of course you're going to say yes repeatedly and of course it's because of my tongue and cheek and I think it does take a lot of human judgement to say what what process design and process and also how much of a pressure you need to give people to just let off some steam that I can vent and we were talking about Twitter but presumably to tell us a little bit more about the other sites that are used in China and probably more widely and how they are being blocked China the domestic platforms are the most common as we chat with everyone of on it's like Facebook and WhatsApp everything rolled into one big touch one and which is the domestic oven of tiktok.

They're short video platform and is notable that for some point because of Laurence's of us not only was he born on a camera but that would have been hundreds of people on there cameras filming that rotate area and lots and lots of footage of him getting your tackle and hit the ground and so those kinds of clips really go very quickly it takes human senses evening.

Augmented by a a algorithms time to figure out what they need to chase and then to clean out afterwards now.

That's what I think of the last few days has been a lot less related material, but there's a lot of coronavirus horse race base material which is complaint people complaining about the lockdowns and the impact of lockdowns in the library has not directly calling for an end to the policy even for the latest step down but clearly there isn't very sharp criticism that is being allowed to be aired right now and how are joking BBC Chinese service you Amazon talking about Florence I mean you put up on Twitter footage of people being forced to ask to remove whatever they had shot on their phones of the process that has been hearing from the various sources and are interview use of course anonymously now people homes being searched and people be contacted and being chased by.

Sometime before you seen something about Crackdown is going on at this moment and yes including riding the street police officer walk over to you.

Give me your phone and check what type of video or image you have without any court order.

So this is the type of thing that you know people here may not be able to ring you mate.

I just wondered when it comes to the likes of Twitter or telegram.

Those sorts of sites who is managing to get access to the time Joseph members talking about VPN how many people in China are managing to get access to these sites that are blocked next need to have access to VPN because they need it to be able to read literature published outside of a side of trying a lot of students in universities in the lots of student protests and over 70 canvases, they may have I wondered if it was.

Who's consuming what media I guess in China are older people more likely to get their information from TV or I think I think if my grandparents are in the 80s.

I still have literally watch the the evening TV state Media broadcast broadcast as they have done your Simpsons there since the middle lives for the younger generation.

It's really all that go in the short video platforms like tiktok, WeChat an online news and I think broad cross-section of Chinese people have been watching the World Cup the football across the country seeing videos of unmasked people celebrating in the stands at the World Cup and so those kinds of images of how the rest of the world is slowly returning to normal after a disastrous pandemic in the rest of the world, but now normalising.

I think I have quite a big impact on people in China thinking why can't we normalise as well and just bring you back in from the Washington Post to what extent do you think silicone?

She cares about all this was a reaction of Twitter beam for example to you know the site being host of spams the people left Twitter realise what was happening after you know some researchers and I called them about it and then they get a better job in town so by the end of Sunday if you if you down, but the type of being picked up or in process about 50/51 government official I spoke to a contractor but keep it down a bit I was just it was just all adult content and how will I get UK to the US tech companies been to help Chinese protesters bypass the census it is a very sticky situation is extremely sensitive that Apple is is coming under increasing pressure for concessions.

It's made to the government.

There is enormous market and of course Elon musk's biggest biggest market outside of the US and in rival 2DS

Just tryna for test I would like the major source of was well, so he cares a lot about white China thanks with the girls were about protesters another question that would deal with that very sensitive African soccer baby and I wonder how I just want to talk about the ability of Janice to operate in China has changed over the years you and from the ft state control over press freedom than they were for example when the channel and then protests took place in 1989.

I think there's been a shift of growing with Passion of the tournament with China's entry into the world trading system with the Beijing Olympics and 08 when the government started to liberalise Lord constraints ranjanas, I think in the last 10 years particularly in the in the in China with seen the the tiger and of the direction of more more tightening and when I started reporting a China 2016.

It was fairly easy to make sauces and find.

And speak to new people I think now today is the so-called red lines of political sensitivities are ever ever broader areas previously we knew that was be difficult to speak to people about things like that like the one party system questions of independence and so on nowadays even speaking to the European business people in China working for multinationals about their about the policy areas is extremely sensitive to think that now.

There is no clear boundary between what is and what isn't ok and Joseph men from Washington Post give you notice any changed since you've been monitoring social media are the Chinese sensors winning on social media.

I mean there's an enormous range of tools that are used to there.

There is a word lacking.

There's obviously the great firewall.

There's a lot of pressure on the companies themselves to please do networks and then there's was called the 50 Cent army wear.

Please essentially or were contractors.

You know who filled up comments with no comment section so happy happy suck put the creativity of the protesters in distancing credits is remarkable to be used ponds Solutions and it's very hard to keep up so I think it's really kind of a numbers game and if enough people are trying to get out about something.

I think I think they can I mean you were talking earlier about how China is going more towards North Korea when it comes to press freedom, what is it like as a journalist in China the speak to you for the BBC China service near can you just turn up at the scene of a crime or court case or whatever it might be and start reporting actually in reality be coming next to impossible and the only ways is to through almost clandestine private contact centre.

Meeting up in places and trying to protect the identity of the interview use and rather than just opened doing interviews and that's the case whether your domestic or take if you just doing pro-government reporting of course you have all the green light to do anything and you work for the stage broadcast you can do a lot but not to touch on things because you're paid by the state and when it comes to add Lawrence in the attack on him.

I mean it prompted the British government the summon the Chinese ambassador here and I go to the UK and china is locking this now.

I'm not only Dad are we still have the unfinished business of the Manchester consulate general you know the do the alleged assault outside the embassy that case and investigation a lot of things.

Unlikely because if anybody to read the 20th party Congress report you can see a national securities mentioned.

I think no let's have 50 times and the economy is no longer to priority if you really really report.

It's not not important, but it's not the party anymore.

It's this survival the party and security of the nation.

That's more than your priority now.

Thank you all so much as I mentioned at the top of the program.

It is 25 years ago this week that one of the most profitable Media franchises in history launched and now a new podcast tells it's story.

Grand Theft Auto


What was millions of Us GTA that's the rapper bugzy Malone to bugzy malone's Grandad game on BBC sounds his Grandad's game being of course Grand Theft Auto Chris Warburton is the podcast other hosts and he is here hello Chris Grand Theft Auto I call you one of the most profitable Media franchises in history is made about $9 since being released in November 1997 give us the basic premise of the game for people who all these years on may still not in all these 25 years.

I played it.

How do you turn it up? It's it's freedom at the heart of this game the many people do spoken to during the making of the podcast that is the word that keeps coming up time and time again freedom to know where you like in this huge.

Open world if you want a cruise down a beautiful coastal road.

You can do that if you want to carry out a hit on arrival crime gang you can do that if

Want to drive around one of these cities based on either New York on Miami or ever it might be you can do that, but it's completing missions and being a criminal in the process usually successful, but it's also been hugely controversial in all these 25 years the first instalment.

It's been both of those things are keeping about a podcast is that this is so much more than the story of a game really Katie this is a tale of modern culture you touching it in your introduction when you listen you hear the GTA is violent.

It's funny.

It's dark.

It's full of satire and it really revolutionise the medium first time in gaming you have rewarded for being bad for the first time it was what is that tell us about our Society what we want to do is the USB of a game that that makes you be bad.


Maybe but people who began to make this game realise that that is what the game has wanted initially you could be the police officer but it only took my battery months to realise it was a lot more fun.

Criminal attempt it is you could do with pay a sex worker for sex and then kill her afterwards and get some money back that is deeply shopping there are elements to the game.

I think the actual bit that you're referring might have been GTA 3 when you really had the full kind of 3D immersive experience of this game brings and there are many things you know you could kill police officers as you say you could kill sex workers there a drugs stealing cars.

There was already a lot of moral panic in the states around videogame partly after the first mass shootings in schools in America Columbine for example and people blaming video games for that politicians.

Got involved parent groups all the rest of it glamorizing violence and there is an argument on that site.

It's makers Rockstar

Clear then and I clear now.

You know this is an adult game and it is rated as such if movies they say the ones that the game is off and emulating films like Goodfellas Scarface the ones that really love 18 films in this country.

They would argue if they could detect those kind of scenes with an 18 rating then why couldn't the video game and they would say we only met we sell it.

It's down to the retailers to sell it appropriately and also to parents to stop it getting into younger hands and the backstories really interesting to the podcast people behind the game you know your progress tells the history of it and it's origins which is this unlikely collaboration between the next public school boy from London and a group of computer programmers from Dundee this is it and it's been described as Britain's greatest coding success since Bletchley Park Whitchurch

We take lessons from those very humble Beginnings you were talking about a game being developed by a very small team in Dundee and this is why are the infancy of video games as well, it's not forget that they were desperate to keep the whole thing on track now.

We called DMA Design then enter this kind of genius like figure in gaming terms of guy from London called Sam houser.

He would take it to another level you would change the name of the game that they were creating to Grand Theft Auto and he would form this company called Rockstar Games they would have an office in New York I've still got a big present in Edinburgh as well, and it would be this company and they ask you and really nobody else has ever heard of you know which is incredible really did you try to get an interview with them of course and they don't do it never heard of them famously elusive and that's part of it, but hardly ever give interviews you know we went to rock star and said that this is what we are doing these are rains we will.

Use teams he is an opportunity come and speak to us at the BBC they didn't then we go and expecting them to but I think the point is they don't need to do these things keto you no more elusive strategy has just fine for them up to now and there hasn't been a grand Theft Auto instalment out for ages and yet.

We think there might be one coming soon or soonish.


I guess that will in the era post me to it will be the first time at this game that everyone said is very anti feminist why you can kill sex workers in the light you know it's coming out then.

What do you see that? It will be different well.

It's a very interesting as we know it's definitely going to come out because I have a tweet earlier on this year and suddenly the gaming world when absolutely you know of their heads ultimately knowing that this was going to come at some point.

Will it be different when there's only been a leak earlier on this year which suggests there might be a female lead character.

You are not been one of those before never really been no I mean I mean.

Female characters female characters they have been psychics they've been kind of gang moles they've been sex workers in the games.

You said not really giving much prominence in the way that male characters are there's a suggestion that it might be a female lead character for the first time but like you say cannot believe that.

I'm hearing that in the 21st Century and black lead character as well.

That was it again something that was seen as a really sort of Progressive moving gaming when it came and the question at the heart that the answer the heart of your question is how can they still shock in the way that this game always has in a very very different kind of societal scenario.

We now living for this week.

Thank you to all my guests 5 Live's Chris Wood and his podcast with the rapper bugzy Malone is available on BBC sounds to Joseph men technology reporter at the Washington Post you and yang Europe China correspondent the Financial Times and Howard Young

editor of the BBC Chinese service the media show will be back next week, but thanks for listening goodbye.

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