The official Chinese translation of President Barack Obama's inauguration speech omitted his references to communism and dissent, and a live broadcast on state television Wednesday quickly cut away to the anchor when sensitive topics were mentioned.
The comments by the newly installed U.S. president veered into politically sensitive territory for China's ruling Communist Party, which maintains a tight grip over the Internet and the entirely state-run media. Beijing tolerates little dissent and frequently decries foreign interference in its internal affairs.
At one point, Obama said earlier generations "faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions." He later addressed "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent — know that you are on the wrong side of history."
Missing word 'communism'
The Chinese translation of the speech, credited to the Web site of the official China Daily newspaper, was missing the word "communism" in the first sentence. The paragraph with the sentence on dissent had been removed entirely.
The censored version was carried by the state-run Xinhua News Agency and posted on popular online portals Sina and Sohu. Another portal, Netease, used a version without the paragraph mentioning communism, but retaining the part about dissent.
The news channel of state broadcaster China Central Television broadcast the speech live early Wednesday local time, but appeared caught off-guard by the statement about facing down communism.
The translator had no sooner said "fascism and communism" when the audio faded out from Obama's speech and cameras cut back to the studio anchor, who seemed flustered for a second before turning to ask an expert what challenges the president faces in turning around the U.S. economy.
Wang Jianhong, deputy director of the CCTV general editing department, said he did not stay up to watch the inauguration broadcast but suggested the transition was a normal part of the program.
"There are breakaways even when broadcasting China's own meetings," he said. "Americans might care a lot about the presidential inauguration, but Chinese may not be very interested."
No one in the editing department of the China Daily Web site was immediately available to answer questions.
The full translation of Obama's speech could be viewed on the Web site of Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Satellite Television, which has a reputation as a more independent news source. The China Daily Web site posted Obama's full remarks in English only.
China has previously altered the words of U.S. officials. A 2004 speech in Shanghai by former Vice President Dick Cheney was broadcast live on state-run television at the insistence of U.S. officials, but the Chinese transcript of the remarks deleted references to political freedom.
In 2003, the memoirs of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama's nominee for secretary of state, were pulled from publication in China after the government-backed publisher removed references to the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests and altered Clinton's comments about human rights activist Harry Wu.