Today programme interview shut down by Chinese spies, BBC reporter suggests

Helena Horton
Carrie Gracie was talking to John Humphrys about surveillance  - BBC

The BBC's China editor suggested her live interview was cut off by the country's authorities after she discussed the   intense security restrictions faced by Beijing residents ahead of the Communist Party conference tomorrow.

Carrie Gracie spoke briefly about the fact drivers have faced waits to get into the city as security has ramped up ahead of the fanfare around Xi Jinping arriving for the conference, which happens twice in a decade.

She said it is "not like any party conference anyone in the UK is familiar with...there's no disco, fringe groups, there's no rock anthem to greet the leader's speech.

"This is the backbone of China's authoritarian system, 2,000 officials in total and it's absolutely holding it's breath, Beijing.

"For example, no live flames in restaurants in Central Beijing, there are no AirBnb guests, there are 90 minute waits for drivers trying to drive into the city because of security checks."

She also said that because of negative reaction, authorities shut down the comment section on the transport system's website.

John Humphrys asked why the security restrictions were so strict, asking what the Chinese authorities are afraid of- but then the line went dead.

Some minutes later, when Ms Gracie managed to get back on the line, she suggested she had been cut off because she was discussing a sensitive topic.

Mr Humphrys asked:  "You were telling me about the huge security measures that were in place and then suddenly you were cut off, vanished… There couldn’t have been a connection could there?"

She replied: "I think there could.

"Of course we can’t say for certain, John, but I would observe that a lot of phone calls recently have been cut off as soon as we are talking about anything sensitive.

"The Chinese Communist state is increasingly sophisticated when it comes to all of this of course, it has big private tech giants in its tech sector and it co-opts them to a very large degree.

"In fact that is one the biggest stories in China right now: the control by the party of what is supposed to be private. These big sophisticated, tech giants are now being deployed to deal with the censorship demands of the Chinese state on an ever closer and more detailed level.

"We probably know already that our TV work that we do in China is largely blacked out, Chinese audiences can’t watch it. Censorship of all kinds is growing here."

Ms Gracie also commented that people with "liberal political views" had become "non-persons" under the tight restrictions of the state.

She also pointed out: "The international media is under heavy pressure too, naturally".

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