Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reports About "Watch Official" Li Dejin's Censorship Get Censored

For years Chinese Internet users have gone online to point out government officials that seem to be living beyond their means. China's state-sponsored media typically then tries to follow-up with their own reports. Sometimes they get censored, sometimes not.

Railways Official Sheng Guangzu

For example, back in September 2011, a Weibo user using the pseudonym "Blossom Mountain General Secretary" (花果山总书记), posted that he had noticed that in a report on the Wenzhou high speed train crash the railways minister, Sheng Guangzu (盛光祖) was wearing a 70,000 yuan Rolex and one of his deputies, Lu Dongfu (陆东福), was wearing a 50,000 yuan model. He launched a survey of "Connoisseurs of Luxury Watches" (鉴表达人) on Weibo.

These screenshots taken in September 2011 show that, while searches for "Lu Dongfu" returned thousands of results, searches for "Blossom Mountain General Secretary" and "Sheng Guangzu" did not return any results, just a censorship notice.

These screenshots show that on September 15, 2011, the state-sponsored Southern Weekend published an article entitled "Leaders, What Watch Are You Wearing Today?" (领导,今天你戴什么表?") at html://www.infzm.com/content/63136, and that it deleted the article some time between September 18 and September 22.

Shaanxi Official Yang Dacai

Similarly, in September 2012, Yang Dacai (杨达才) was removed from his post as head of the Shaanxi Administration of Work Safety after multiple photos of him were posted on the Internet showing him wearing at least 11 luxury watches on different occasions.

Sina Weibo did not censor searches for Yang's name. But after what the state-sponsored Global Times said was "a torrent of rebukes after postings on Sina Weibo suggested Li [Jinzhu - vice governor of Shaanxi] defended Yang during an address to the Standing Committee of the Shaanxi Provincial Committee of the CPC," Sina Weibo began censoring searches for "watch brother" (表哥), "watch uncle" (表叔), and "Li Jinzhu" (李金柱).

In addition, when users searched for "Yang Dacai Li Jinzhu" (杨达才 李金柱) on Baidu, Sogou, Yahoo.cn, and Youdao, they got no results, only a censorship notice.

For more on the Yang Dacai affair, see http://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/10/shaanxi-official-yang-dacai-dismissed.html

Fujian Official Li Dejin

At around 8 am on October 9, Zhou Zhichen (周智琛), editor-in-chief of the Yunnan-based City Times (云南都市时报) posted this on his Sina Weibo:
As a journalist who got started in Fujian, I have never felt so angry and humiliated. I so detest and despise those criminals whose reach has no bounds, that even as I was too depressed to weep and wail over those 100,000 newspapers, I comforted myself, only the survivors can become the builders. But I believe even more that that time machine wearing a whip soaked in the Godfather's breath and time machine covered in crazy bling is just the beginning of the dark side begging to become the target of retribution, I firmly believe this.
At around 2 pm on October 9 Wang Keqin (王克勤), assistant editor in chief with the Economic Observer newspaper (经济观察报) posted this on his Sina Weibo:
[Fujian "Watch Uncle Director" Dares to Cross Provincial Borders to Destroy Tens of Thousands of Papers] Li Dejin, head of the Fujian Transportation Office, wears a diamond-inlayed Rado watch worth 50,000 yuan on his wrist and a Hermes leather belt worth 15,000 yuan around his waist. The original version of page A30 of today's Yunnan City Times was going to present "Here Comes Fujian's 'Watch Uncle Director'." Tens of thousands of newspapers were already printed, and in the deep of the night they were simultaneously subjected to cross-provincial destruction and unbridled censorship. In the past this guy had been targeted for attacks by Internet users because of the "Quanzhou Port" affair.
【福建“表叔厅长”居然跨省毁报几十万份】福建交通厅厅长李德金手戴五万雷达镶钻手表,腰夸15000爱马仕腰带。原本今日云南@都市时报 A30版,要推出《福建“表叔厅长”来了》。几十万份报纸已经印刷,凌晨却被跨省销毁,同时开始疯狂删帖。之前,此人更因“泉州港”事件引发网友群起讨伐。
At 9 pm on October 9, Zhou posted this on his Sina Weibo:
There are truths that cannot be spoken, but falsehoods absolutely will not be spoken. Thanks everyone for their concern.
On October 9, the People's Daily published a story entitled  "Rumor Spreads on Internet That Yunnan City Times' 'Fujian Watch Uncle Director' Article Censored By Someone From Another Province, Reporters Attempts to Confirm Fruitless" (网传云南都市时报“福建表叔厅长”稿件被跨省撤稿 记者求证未果). The article mentioned both Zhou's and Wang's Weibo posts.

Both Wang's Weibo post (originally available here - http://weibo.com/1700757973/yFDdZ7sio)and the People's Daily article (originally available here - http://society.people.com.cn/n/2012/1009/c1008-19208872.html and here -
http://ah.people.com.cn/n/2012/1010/c227130-17562043.html) were subsequently deleted.
Wang Keqin's post before it was deleted.
The People's Daily article was reposted and deleted from other news portals, including:
Google preview shows the People's Daily article has been deleted.
At just after midnight on October 10, Hu Xijin (胡锡进), editor of the state-sponsored Global Times, published this on his Sina Weibo:
Regarding the Internet rumors about the Yunnan City Times being "subjected to cross-border censorship and forced to reprint: because a report on Fujian's "watch uncle" transportation director, on Wednesday the Global Times published an editorial: the media has a bottom line when it comes to being respected, and even if a certain report might go astray and have mistakes, this bottom line should not be crossed. In addition, while editor Zhou Zhichen is publicly objecting but simultaneously speaking in veiled references, local official should immediately respond to the people's questions, and at the very least should say something.
Later in the day on October 10, the Global Times published four articles about the incident, two in English, and two in Chinese:
An excerpt from "Attempt to Bully Media Backfires Again":
Newspapers can be asked to delete articles, but there should be sufficient grounds to do so. The authorities also have to reach a consensus with that newspaper. 
Also, officials should respond to public doubts in a timely manner.  A wall of silence will only lead to more suspicion.  
Chinese media outlets are constantly frustrated by interference from special interest groups, sometimes even powerful individuals.
. . .
The easy decision to cancel an issue of a newspaper shows how media outlets are disrespected by people who hold power.  
They underestimate the consequences of decisions like this. 
This is no longer a time when information can be blocked or erased. Those who attempt to do so will only find themselves in more trouble. 
Within hours, the Global Times deleted both of the Chinese language articles. [Update - December 2012:  At some time after this post was published the Global Times restored these articles.]
Global Times articles before they were deleted.
The English language articles are still available.

On October 17, the People's Daily reported that on October 15 Li Dejin was touring various construction sites, telling those involved that they must "grasp quality, grasp safety, and grasp progress to welcome the victorious opening of the 18th Party Congress with outstanding accomplishments." (“抓质量、抓安全、抓进度”,以优异的成绩迎接党的十八大胜利召开。)