The drive is intended to increase information censorship and prevent people in mainland China from accessing information that may damage CCP’s image.
by Wu Haiping
Simple satellite dishes installed in people’s homes are particularly popular in rural China due to their low price and ability to transmit numerous channels. In 1993, the State Council promulgated Regulations on the Administration of Satellite Television and Broadcasting Ground Receiving Facilities, prohibiting to install at home satellite receivers. Still, most local governments never effectively implemented the order, allowing people to keep and install new satellite dishes.
However, in recent years, as the regime started intensifying efforts to censor all information consumed by the population, TV programs transmitted through satellite dishes from abroad, primarily those critical about the CCP, were ordered to be blocked. Consequently, local authorities began issuing stricter demands to remove personal satellite receivers, regarded as “hidden dangers” in ideological work on citizens. Many in China believe that this drive is connected with foreign countries’ growing criticism over CCP’s policies.
On April 30, the Leading Group for Overseas Satellite Rectification Work of Zhuanghe, a county-level city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, issued an order demanding to dismantle all privately installed satellite receivers before June 30. The clean-up is carried out in the name of “maintaining ideological safety.” Those who don’t implement the order in time may be held legally accountable.
In May, a city in the eastern province of Zhejiang demanded to remove all such receivers, stating that it was an important measure in blocking overseas television programs to ensure ideological safety.
A worker at a company charged with removing private satellite receivers in Jilin, a prefecture-level city in the province by the same name in northeast China, revealed that over 700 satellite dishes had been eliminated in more than 1,000 households.
People protesting the removal were threatened to be fined or have their state benefits annulled. “The village Party secretary said that my pension would be canceled if I refused to demolish my satellite dish,” remembered an elderly woman who lives alone in Jilin Province’s Jiaohe city.
An elderly ethnic Korean in his 70s was threatened by an official to get a fine of 3,000 RMB (about $ 430) if he did not demolish his satellite receiver.
Official media outlets in mainland China publish “positive” propaganda reports about the removal of satellite dishes, emphasizing that it is needed to prevent lightning strikes or accidental injuries when equipment falls on passers-by. Another popular propaganda topic—programs from abroad harm minors.
Regardless of the media’s efforts, many people still believe that the drive is primarily intended to bloc information about local and international affairs.
“The government is afraid that some foreign programs are not favorable to its rule, so they want to eliminate all satellite dishes in people’s homes,” a political department head in a Liaoning Province village told Bitter Winter. He added that numerous programs from Hong Kong and Taiwan, or those produced by banned religious groups, like Falun Gong, are prohibited in mainland China.
Another government insider from Liaoning explained that satellite dishes can broadcast foreign programs that reveal “the CCP’s ugly and evil actions to people in mainland China.” “It would become harder for the government to rule them. That’s the reason,” he added.
The authorities in Zhejiang’s Hangzhou city entrusted grid administrators with investigating how many people in their jurisdictions have satellite dishes “without missing a case.” One of them revealed that in internal communication, his superiors have stated that satellite dishes are being removed because of their ability to receive foreign TV programs. “Remarks by the outside world about the CCP are unfavorable, so the government is afraid that people will hear the truth,” the gird administrator explained.