A bull with fish-shaped flags drawn by schoolchildren, created by a local council for a cattle industry event, has had two Taiwanese flags painted over by that local council.

I understand why the council did this - not only does Australia conform to the One China policy, but it does not want to offend China, who buys a significant amount of Australian beef. And I get that it's not technically speaking a freedom of speech issue, because the statues are council property.

Some people have seriously suggested that China would actually get offended.

But I'm left wondering if there was a less drastic way of resolving this issue. And I don't mean by temporarily covering up the statues, like was done when the Iranian government visited Italy, but possibly by somehow separating themselves from artworks that are technically connected with the government. Have any governments ever successfully done so?

  • Many countries have some law on the book to the effect that private citizens cannot conduct foreign policy. Call it managing speech, or call it preserving the constitutional powers of the government ... But in this case it wasn't private citizens, it was a local government entity that got involved in managing the cows. How would you react if some child had painted an IS flag and the adults had overpainted it? – o.m. May 10 '18 at 13:19
  • Hehe... I can still remember when a Pope visited Malta and there was chatter all over the island (and in international newspapers) because a mayor complained about the phallic statue he was supposed to drive by in Luqa. (Protestors ended up partially hiding it with a banner instead.) – Denis de Bernardy May 10 '18 at 13:28
  • Is this a question about Australia's or China's policy? – user9389 May 10 '18 at 15:36
  • @DenisdeBernardy Someone should have told them about those, specially the second one. – SJuan76 May 10 '18 at 19:53
  • @o.m. Taiwan is hardly analogous to IS. – Acccumulation May 10 '18 at 20:42

Not really. In fact, attempts to tamp down speech you don't like using the government has produced poor results in the past. Consider the Streisand Effect, where this happened

It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California, inadvertently drew further public attention to it. Similar attempts have been made, for example, in cease-and-desist letters to suppress files, websites, and even numbers. Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity and media extensions such as videos and spoof songs, often being widely mirrored on the Internet or distributed on file-sharing networks.

That picture she wanted gone is now on Wikipedia forever.

More recently, there was the below picture of Liu Xiaobo, an activist in China who was persecuted by the government. These pictures of him with his wife, shared with Western media, seemed innocuous enough

enter image description here

But then it came out that Xi Jinping banned usage of Winnie the Pooh imagery, because he was being compared to the cartoon character. Look at the picture of Liu again. Hey, what's that on the side of their mugs? Heck, they're holding it so you can clearly see what it is.

The more a government tries to suppress free speech, the more it tends to find a way anyways, especially in this day and age of the Internet.


To the contrary, this appears to be freedom of speech by way of diplomacy, advertising and marketing. China is free to boycott Beef Australia. Beef Australia is free to pander to its Chinese customers.

The Rockhampton high school students weren't so much censored as they were edited, the same way a commercial artist's or photographer's work might be cropped or changed by an editor. The main difference is that commercial artists may get a kill fee, but the students won't.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .