Tuesday, November 13, 2012

As Politburo Standing Committee Announcement Nears, Baidu Relaxes Censorship of Some Current and Potential Members' Names

As noted previously, during the first week of November, Baidu began censoring the names of most of the men widely speculated to join the Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee, including Zhang Dejiang (张德江), Li Yuanchao (李源潮), Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), Liu Yunshan (刘云山), Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), and Wang Qishan (王岐山) during the 18th Party Congress that began on November 8, 2012. At that time Baidu restricted search results for their names to a white list comprising its own Baike and about a dozen websites under the direct control of the central government and the Communist Party.

Now Baidu has tweaked its censorship once again. As these screenshots of a searches for "Li Yuanchao" and "Zhang Gaoli" show, at some point in the second week of November, Baidu relaxed its censorship of these names, and is now returning search results from its broad white list, which includes large China-based news and portal websites such as Sina.

"Li Yuanchao"
"Zhang Gaoli"
In the last week Baidu also relaxed its censorship of the names of some current members of the Politburo Standing Committee. These screenshots show that Baidu is now returning results for searches for "Xi Jinping" (习近平) restricted to sina.com.cn.

Baidu continues to censor search results for current and potential PBSC members, however, and this screenshot shows that a search for "Xi Jinping" restricted to the Hudong website (a wikipedia clone similar to Baidu's Baike) returns a notice saying "Search results may not comply with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, and have not been displayed. We suggest you try other related terms." (搜索结果可能不符合相关法律法规和政策,未予显示。建议尝试其他相关词。)

Furthermore, this relaxation appears to only apply to Chinese language searches. Users get the same censorship notice when searching for "Xi Jinping" in English restricted to sina.com.cn.

Finally, the relaxation does not apply to all senior leadership figures: searches for "Hu Jintao" (胡锦涛) continue to be restricted to the strict white list.