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China censors live democratic presidential debate over criticism

The live broadcast of the sixth Democratic presidential debate was abruptly censored in China on December 19, as the discussion on alleged human rights abuses of Uighur Muslims at the hands of government in Xinjiang took off.

The T.V. screen turned black around 9 p.m. ET just when PBS moderator Judy Woodruff directed a question to Mayor Pete Buttigieg asking if the United States should pull out its participation from the 2022 Beijing Olympics, considering China’s mass detention of Uighur Muslims.

Reportedly, the live telecast of PBS/Politico debate held in Los Angeles was disrupted for over nine minutes, until discussion continued on China issues, such as, the Hong Kong protests, US-China trade war, and military enmities in the South China Waters.

In China, it is a regular practice to cut or censor live broadcasts on global media networks in case the content is deemed politically sensitive by the governing Communist Party. The audience in China is well-aware about the censorship because the screen commonly turns black and the audio is muted.

The international media houses have noted that their feeds on sensitive issues, including the Xinjiang detention centers and the Hong Kong protests are repeatedly taken off air by Chinese censors.

According to the US State Department, at least 2 million Uighur Muslims are possibly detained in mass detention centers running in China’s Xinjiang region. Detainees and activists said they were subjected to abuse while forcefully undergoing political re-education in the camps.

Leaked confidential documents from the government revealed a program intended to transform the Muslim minority citizens into nationalistic, Chinese-speaking citizens.

Chinese government has denied accusations of human rights abuses at the detention camps, citing them as “vocational training centers” run to focus on de-radicalization and counter-terrorism.

The records of government officials suggest that all the “trainees” in the camps have completed their training and returned to order, however, no evidence has been provided to back their claims.

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