Maskless Costa Rica fans. / © AFP
China's state broadcaster is cutting close-up shots of maskless fans at the Qatar World Cup, after early coverage sparked anger at home where street protests have erupted over harsh Covid-19 restrictions.
China is the last major economy still attempting to stamp out the domestic spread of Covid-19 with snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and mass testing campaigns.
During a live broadcast of Sunday's group game between Japan and Costa Rica, state broadcaster CCTV Sports replaced close-up shots of maskless fans waving flags with images of players, officials or the football stadium, AFP observed.
CCTV Sports showed distant shots of the crowd where it was difficult to make out individual faces, and fewer crowd shots compared to the live telecast of the same game on online platforms including Douyin -- China's version of TikTok.
Tens of millions of people in major cities including Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing were under some form of lockdown as of Sunday -- a contrast with the raucous World Cup crowds that have infuriated many Chinese social media users.
An open letter questioning the country's Covid-19 policies and asking if China was "on the same planet" as Qatar spread on the popular WeChat messaging app on Tuesday, before censors removed it from the platform.
Hundreds of people took to the streets in Beijing and Shanghai on Sunday to protest against China's zero-Covid policy in a rare outpouring of public anger against the state.