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China blocks seminal pollution video

Viral environmental video wiped from Chinese web

'Under the Dome', the hit viral documentary demanding action on China's environmental problems, including the poor air quality that blights cities like Beijing, has been blocked online.

Reporter Chai Jing's film, which debuted on the website of the state-run newspaper People's Daily, had been viewed around 200 million times when it was taken offline on Saturday.

It's still available, with English subtitles, on YouTube.

There were signs that the film was making the Government uncomfortable a week ago when, according to a leaked government order obtained by China Digital Times, newspapers were ordered to stop covering it.

However, the decision to take it offline altogether came as a surprise to many, since the film's message seemed to chime so well with the Government's own agenda.

Speaking at the opening session of the National People’s Congress last week, prime minister Li Keqiang called pollution 'a blight on people's quality of life and a trouble that weighs on their hearts'. Other high-ranking Government officials promised to crack down on 'environmental crime', a remedy that Jing's film also recommends.

Why clamp down on a film you agree with? It could also be an attempt to lower expectations of a quick fix for China's environmental woes. Chen Jining, the young (for China) environment minister appointed just last week said on Saturday that, 'we cannot rush for solutions, nor should we expect rapid improvement [in pollution levels] overnight'.

Whatever the reason, the film's block has made it clear, once again, that discussion of any sensitive topic in China has its limits.

Let's hope that those limits don't also hold back efforts to fix Beijing's pollution problems.
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