"same sanitised version of the internet as everyone else in China"
I guess the author hasn't been around in China too much.
Ask any teenager how to get Facebook (officially blocked in CN) and you will shown how. So much for 'sanitised.' Any URL can be reached.
As for satellite dishes your contributor us really showing his lack of knowledge. All satellite dishes require permits issued by the Internal Security Police, which are required to be displayed alongside the antenna. Another permit is required for the receiver, again displayed alongside.
The police, of any shade, can enter the premises to inspect the equipment and permit. They have their own technicians and often they check the antenna alignment to ensure the authorised signals can be received.
I smuggled a collapsible antenna in - but I am a 'Lo Fun' so it is possible for me to get a permit - but didn't look like an antenna when collapsed. It is used for HongKong based satellite InterNet.