BEIJING - China censored its translation of President Obama's inauguration speech, removing references to communism and dissent, and halted state TV's live broadcast of the address when Cold War-era animosities were mentioned.
One television official tried to downplay the cutaway as a normal break in programming, while an editor with the China Daily newspaper's Web site said staff who censored online versions of the speech likely did so because they were "duty-bound to protect the country's interests."
The news channel of state broadcaster China Central Television broadcast the speech live, but appeared caught off-guard by Obama's reference to how earlier generations of Americans had "faced down fascism and communism."
The audio quickly faded out from Obama's speech and cameras cut back to the studio anchor, who seemed flustered for a second before turning to ask a U.S.-based CCTV reporter what challenges the president faces in turning around the economy.
China's ruling Communist Party maintains a tight grip over its entirely state-run media. Beijing tolerates little dissent and frequently decries foreign interference in its affairs.
Wang Jianhong, deputy director of the CCTV general editing department, said he did not stay up to watch the inauguration broadcast but suggested the transition was a normal part of the program.
"There are breakaways even when broadcasting China's own meetings," he said. "Americans might care a lot about the presidential inauguration, but Chinese may not be very interested."
The China Daily Web site, the official Xinhua news agency, and popular online portals Sina and Sohu all used a translation of the speech that omitted the word
from the same sentence that tripped up the news anchor.
The translation was also missing Obama's remarks on free speech when he said, "Those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent - know that you are on the wrong side of history."
An editor at the China Daily Web site said managers did not order the censorship.
"Our translators and editors on the evening shift would make those decisions independently," said the editor, who declined to give his name, as is common in China. "As Chinese, we are duty-bound to protect the country's interests."