Footage of the bench-clearing brawl between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Chinese Basketball Association's Bayi Rockets in Beijing on Thursday has captured the attention of the U.S. media, with reports parsing the ugly incident in the context of Vice President Joe Biden's visit to China this week. But the reaction in the Chinese press has been far more muted. The Communist Party's Global Times and People's Daily mention soccer and speed skating "brawls" but don't mention the basketball game. Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, has just acknowledged the fight in a brief but chosen to focus on the fact that the Chinese players later made up with their American rivals, shaking hands with them at the airport and exchanging souvenirs.
How does a story go viral in the U.S. and silent in China? Censorship, it seems. The Washington Post's Gene Wang notes that Chinese websites including 163.com and sina.com initially had the story, only for government censors to take down the articles shortly thereafter. The Wall Street Journal's Josh Chin adds that censors also removed amateur footage of the melee posted to Chinese video sites. The Beijing News--one of the few outlets to carry the story--blamed the officials for not controlling the game (the story is pictured on the right). The New York Time's Andrew Jacobs, who says China's media restrictions appear to be easing this evening, takes China's decision to censor coverage of the game as evidence that its senior leaders are displeased that "players from its most popular men's basketball team got into an ugly, full-court brawl." Jacobs adds that many Chinese microbloggers appear to share that displeasure with the home team. "Aren't Bayi players soldiers?" one poster asked. "Why would they beat up a bunch of college students? What a loss of face for the people's army!" (The Bayi Rockets have ties to the People's Liberation Army).
Here's the brawl footage that Chinese censors are working so hard to downplay:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.