China bans video game for allegedly offending Chinese sovereignty

Thursday, December 9th 2004, 11:07 am
By: News On 6

SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ China has banned a new computer game for referring to Taiwan and other regions claimed by China as separate countries.

The ban underscores China's extreme sensitivity over any perceived slight to its national prestige amid rising global economic and political clout.

Officially ``Football Manager 2005,'' a British game that hit markets on Nov. 5, is not sold in China and has no Chinese-language version.

But the government is searching for the game online and in computer software markets, cybercafes and newsstands that sell pirated software.

Any copies found will be seized, a notice on the culture ministry's Web site said.

The government threatened steep fines for providing the game or failing to prevent it from being downloaded. Violators also could lose their license.

The ministry said the game contained ``content harmful to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.''

China claims self-governing Taiwan and recovered Hong Kong from Britain in 1997. The Culture Ministry said the game also contained references to Tibet, which Chinese troops occupied in 1951, and Macau, a former Portuguese colony handed over to China in 1999.

Marc Duffy, a spokesman for the game's developer, Sports Interactive Ltd., said the ministry apparently was referring to content in the English version that was never intended for distribution in China.

He said the company and local partner, game publisher Ubisoft Entertainment Inc., were working on a Chinese version for release in China and would comply with local requirements.

``We will follow the correct submission and approval process within China and look forward to feedback from the Chinese authorities on any modifications that may be required,'' Duffy said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

Foreign companies making everything from cell phones to packaged food have run into similar trouble for allegedly violating Chinese sensitivities.

In the last week China also has banned a Nike television commercial showing LeBron James, the reigning NBA rookie of the year, in a mock video game setting battling and defeating a kung fu master, two women in traditional Chinese attire and a pair of dragons.

The State Administration for Radio, Film and Television said the ad violated national dignity and was disrespectful and blasphemous toward Chinese culture.

It did not say why the advertisement was considered offensive. But communist officials are sensitive about the use of Chinese cultural symbols by Westerners and might have been especially angered that the Nike advertisement showed a foreigner winning the fight.

The Nike ad also has been pulled from window displays in Nike's Chinese outlets.