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One World live streams were blocked in China, but netizens watched anyway

Chinese video platforms say they still plan to eventually release a recording of the charity concert that raised funds for Covid-19 relief

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
This past weekend, tens of millions of people across the globe watched One World: Together At Home. The star-studded online concert raised nearly US$128 million to support health care workers around the world in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Social media in China was also buzzing about the concert -- but that’s in spite of the fact that there was no official source available on Chinese streaming sites.

According to Global Citizen’s official page for the concert, people were supposed to be able to watch on Alibaba’s Youku and Tencent Video. But on Monday, hours after the event ended, the time listed for the concert on both platforms still displayed “TBA” -- to be announced.

How Youku went from being China’s YouTube to China’s Hulu

Tencent and Alibaba did not respond to questions about their plans for airing the concert.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

Hong Kong singer Eason Chan performed two songs during the One World: Together At Home concert’s six-hour pre-show. (Picture: Handout)
One Chinese company that did stream the concert live is ByteDance… but not in China. ByteDance said it live-streamed the concert to global users on TikTok. However, for the Chinese version of the popular short video app, known as Douyin, ByteDance said the event will be aired “soon,” without elaborating. The same goes for short video competitor Kuaishou and video site Bilibili, which has a page for the event but no video.

Bilibili, China’s biggest anime site, covers the screen in user comments

If anyone hoped to air their displeasure about the inaccessibility of the concert on the country’s biggest review site, they were also out of luck. Douban disabled ratings and reviews for the One World: Together At Home page.

How Douban went from China’s IMDB to its ‘spiritual corner’

In a country that strictly controls online content, many internet users weren’t surprised to find it difficult to tune in to the live event. Even before the internet, China didn’t broadcast Live Aid, the famous charity rock concert held in 1985 to raise money for victims of the Ethiopian famine.

Still, some people complained on social media.

“It’s a pity that we’re cut off from the world,” one person commented on the microblogging site Weibo under a news post about the One World concert.
“It’s a charity concert and the broadcast is banned across all platforms!!” said another Weibo user in a comment that drew more than 200 likes. “(You) keep wanting the world to accept us, but don’t want to be a part of the world…”
But some internet users still managed to watch the event live, which started at about 2am local time. Some said that they could watch through a live stream link that United Nations posted on its official Weibo account, although the connection was said to be slow and unstable. Others said they couldn’t even open the UN link.
Another option sent around online was to watch on the Korean live-streaming site V Live, which isn’t blocked in China. The site’s page for the event shows many of the posted comments are in simplified Chinese, the script primarily used in mainland China.

The country’s more tech savvy users didn’t have to scour social media for working links. They just used a VPN to jump the Great Firewall and watch on YouTube.

The story of China’s Great Firewall, the world’s most sophisticated censorship system