Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 in Review: 10 Examples of Free Speech With Mainland Chinese Characteristics (Part 1)

1. "The Truth"

From at least June 26 through July 9, searching on Sina Weibo for "The Truth" (真相) returned no results, just a notice saying "In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, search results for 'the truth' have not been displayed." (根据相关法律法规和政策,“真相”搜索结果未予显示。)

At some time between July 10 and July 20, Sina Weibo once again began returning search results for "the truth."
Screenshot taken on June 26 showing Sina Weibo censoring searches for "the truth."

2. Bo Xilai, Gu Kailai, Wang Lijun

Timeline
  • November 14, 2011: Gu Kailai (谷开来), wife of Chongqing Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙来), and Zhang Xiaojun (张晓军), an employee of the of the Chongqing Communist Party Committee, poison Neil Heywood (尼尔伍德).
  • January 28, 2012: Wang Lijun (王立军), chief of Chongqing's Public Security Bureau, reports to Bo that Gu is a suspect in the murder of  Heywood.
  • January 29: Bo rebukes Wang and slaps him in the face.
  • February 2: Wang is removed from his position.
  • February 6: Wang enters the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu at 2:31 p.m.
  • February 7: Wang leaves the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu at 11:35 p.m.
  • February 8: At 10:54 am Xinhua's official Weibo reports  Wang is “undergoing convalescent therapy.” (接受休假式的治疗)
  • March 19: A document entitled "Report on the Investigation and Assessment of Wang Lijun's Personal Visit to the American Consulate in Chengdu" (王立军私自进入美国驻成都总领馆并滞留事件进行调查评估的通报) begins to circulate on the Internet.
  • March 26: The British government asks the Chinese government to investigate Heywood's death.
  • April 10: China announces Bo is suspended from his Politburo and top Communist Party posts and Gu is being investigated for Heywood's death.
  • August 9: Gu and Zhang are tried in Heifei.
  • August 20: Gu is found guilty of murder, and given a suspended death sentence. 
  • September 24: Wang is found guilty and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
  • September 28: Xinhua reports: "Bo Xilai Expelled From CPC, Public Office, To Face Justice"
Microblog Censorship

On February 8, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for “Wang Lijun.”

Between March 15 and 17, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for “Bo Xilai.”

On March 26, a search for “Neil Heywood” on Tencent Weibo returned over 70 results. By March 27, searches were no longer returning results, just a censorship notice.

Sina Weibo stopped censoring searches for “Gu Kailai” within hours of the court announcing her verdict.

Tencent Weibo stopped censoring searches for "Wang Lijun" within hours of the court announcing his verdict.

Sina and Tencent stopped censoring Weibo searches for both "Bo Xilai" and "Bo Guagua" within hours of the government's announcement that Bo Xilai would “face justice.”
Screenshots showing Sina Weibo began censoring "Bo Xilai" in mid-March.
Search Censorship

On the morning of February 8, a Baidu search for "Wang Lijun defects to American Consulate" (王立军叛逃美领馆) returned hundreds of results.  By that evening, searches were no longer returning results, just a censorship notice.

On February 21, Baidu began censoring "Bo Xilai Tenders Resignation" (薄熙来 请辞)

On March 15, Baidu began censoring "Bo Xilai Removed" (薄熙来 被免职).

On March 19, Baidu began censoring "Report on the Investigation and Assessment of Wang Lijun's Personal Visit to the American Consulate in Chengdu" (王立军私自进入美国驻成都总领馆并滞留事件进行调查评估的通报)

On March 26, a search for “Neil Heywood” on Baidu returned over 26,000 results. By March 27, searches were no longer returning results, just a censorship notice.

On April 8, Baidu began restricting searches for "Bo Xilai" to its strict white list.

On April 10, Baidu began restricting searches for "Gu Kailai," “Wang Lijun,” and “Bo Guagua” to its strict white list.

Between April 9 and 11 Baidu stopped permitting off-the-strict-whitelist search results for “Bo Xilai.”

Between April 12 and 13 Sogou began censoring searches for “Zhang Xiaojun.”
Screenshots showing Baidu search results for "Neil Heywood" at various times.

3. Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng and US Ambassador
Gary Locke
Timeline

  • April 20:  Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) escapes the unofficial house arrest he had lived under for a year and a half  by climbing over a wall to a neighbor's house and hiding in the pigsty.
  • April 23: Chen meets He Peirong  (何培蓉) and is driven to Beijing.
  • April 26: Chen enters the US Embassy in Beijing.
  • May 2: China says Chen has left the Embassy “of his own volition." Chen is escorted to Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing by U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke. 
  • May 3: China's state-run media publishes its first reports about the incident.
  • May 20: Chen is flown to New York.

Microblog Censorship

Sina Weibo had been censoring searches for "Chen Guangcheng" prior to this event. As of the morning of April 27, 2012 it was not, however, censoring "CGC."  Within hours of reports of his escape, searches for "cgc" were no longer returning results, just a censorship notice.

A search for “pearlher” (the online name of He Peirong) on Sina Weibo on the morning of April 27 returned over 52,000 results. By that afternoon searches were no longer returning results, just a censorship notice.

A search for "Left of his own volition" (自行离开) on Sina Weibo at 6:00 pm on May 2 was returning over 300,000 results.  By 6:30 pm searches were no longer returning results, just a censorship notice.

A search for "Chaoyang Hospital" (朝阳医院) on Sina Weibo at 4:20 pm on May 2 was returning over 200,000 results. By 5:00 pm searches were no longer returning results, just a censorship notice.

A search for "Ambassador Locke" (骆大使) on Sina Weibo at 4:20 pm on May 2 was returning over 300,000 results. By 5:30 pm searches were no longer returning results, just a censorship notice.
Screenshots showing Sina Weibo began censoring "pearlher,"
the online name of He Peirong, who helped Chen.
Search Censorship

A Baidu web search for "Chen Guangcheng" on April 27, 2012 returned two pages of results (about 20), all from about a dozen websites controlled by the central government and the Communist Party. The same search on May 5 returned over 200,000 results, although there was a notice saying some search results have not been displayed.

A Baidu web search for "Chen Guangcheng American Embassy" (陈光诚 美使馆) on April 27, 2012 returned no results, just a censorship notice. The same search on May 6 showed no censorship notice, and returned over 24,000 results.
Screenshots showing Baidu stopped censoring "Chen Guangcheng US Embassy"
once China's state-run media began reporting on the incident.

4. Bloomberg Expose of Xi Jinping Family Wealth


On the afternoon of June 29, 2012, Bloomberg's Businessweek published an article entitled "Xi Jinping Millionaire Relations Reveal Fortunes of Elite." Some excerpts:
Most of the extended Xi family’s assets traced by Bloomberg were owned by Xi’s older sister, Qi Qiaoqiao, 63; her husband Deng Jiagui, 61; and Qi’s daughter Zhang Yannan, 33, according to public records compiled by Bloomberg.
. . . .
Deng [Jiagui, Xin Jinping's brother-in-law] held an indirect 18 percent stake as recently as June 8 in Jiangxi Rare Earth & Rare Metals Tungsten Group Corp. Prices of the minerals used in wind turbines and U.S. smart bombs have surged as China tightened supply.
. . . .
A 3.17 million-yuan investment by Zhang [Yannan, Xi Jinping's daughter-in-law] in Beijing-based Hiconics Drive Technology Co. (300048) has increased 40-fold since 2009 to 128.4 million yuan ($20.2 million) as of yesterday’s close in Shenzhen.
. . . .
Another brother-in-law of Xi Jinping, Wu Long, ran a telecommunications company named New Postcom Equipment Co. The company was owned as of May 28 by relatives three times removed from Wu -- the family of his younger brother’s wife, according to public documents and an interview with one of the company’s registered owners.
Microblog Censorship

Even before the article Sina Weibo censored searches for “Xi Jinping.” Within hours of the Bloomberg article's publication, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for "Bloomberg," "Deng Jiagui," (邓家贵) "Wu Long," (吴龙) and "Zhang Nannan" (张燕南).

At some point on June 30, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for the term "millionaire."
Screenshot taken on July 1 showing Sina Weibo censoring
searches for "millionaire."
Search Censorship

Within hours of the article's publication, Baidu began censoring searches for "Zhang Yannan." (张燕南), "Deng Jiagui." (邓家贵) and "Wu Long" (吴龙).

By midnight searches on Baidu for:

  • "Qi Qiaoqiao" (齐桥桥) returned results that appeared to be restricted to websites operating inside China. 
  • “Bloomberg” and "Peng Liyuan" (彭丽媛 - Xi Jinping's wife) returned results that appeared to be restricted to white list of about a dozen websites controlled by the central government and the Communist Party. 
  • The article's title and "Wu Long New Postcom" (吴龙 新邮) returned no results, just a censorship notice saying "Search results may not comply with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, and have not been displayed." (搜索结果可能不符合相关法律法规和政策,未予显示。)

By July 2, Baidu was also censoring searches such as "Bloomberg Businessweek Wu Long" (彭博 商业周刊 吴龙),  "Jiangxi Rare Earth & Rare Metals Tungsten Group Corp." (江西稀土稀有金属钨业集团) and "Beijing Hiconics Drive Technology Co." (北京合康亿盛变频科技)
Screenshots taken on June 29 showing Baidu restricting search results for
"bloomberg" to state-run media sources, and completely censoring searches
for the title of the Bloomberg article about Xi Jinping's relatives' wealth.

5. New York Times Expose of Wen Jiabao Family Wealth


At around 5:00 am on October 26, the New York Times published an article entitled "Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader" (总理家人隐秘的财富). Some excerpts:
Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives, some of whom have a knack for aggressive deal-making, including his wife, have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.
. . . .
Duan Weihong, a wealthy businesswoman whose company, Taihong, was the investment vehicle for the Ping An shares held by the prime minister’s mother and other relatives, said the investments were actually her own. Ms. Duan, who comes from the prime minister’s hometown and is a close friend of his wife, said ownership of the shares was listed in the names of Mr. Wen’s relatives in an effort to conceal the size of Ms. Duan’s own holdings.  
“When I invested in Ping An I didn’t want to be written about,” Ms. Duan said, “so I had my relatives find some other people to hold these shares for me.”  
But it was an “accident,” she said, that her company chose the relatives of the prime minister as the listed shareholders — a process that required registering their official ID numbers and obtaining their signatures. Until presented with the names of the investors by The Times, she said, she had no idea that they had selected the relatives of Wen Jiabao.
Within 24 hours of the article's publication:
  • Sina Weibo began censoring "NYT" and "The Premier's Family" (总理家人)
  • Sogou began censoring "New York Times" (纽约时报)
  • Baidu did something that made search results for the Chinese title of the New York Times article "disappear."  On October 26 Baidu said it could find over 1 million results. On October 27 it said it could not find any results.
Screenshots showing Sogou began censoring searches for "New York Times"
shortly after the publication of its article on Wen Jiabao's relatives' wealth.

Microblog Censorship

After the articles publication, Sina Weibo was censoring the names of several individuals and terms mentioned in the article:
  • "Wen Jiabao" in Chinese, and the initials "wjb."
  • Wen's Wife Zhang Beili (张蓓莉),
  • Wen's Brother  Wen Jiahong (温家宏)
  • Wen's Mother Yang Zhiyun (杨志云)
  • Wen's Son Wen Yunsong (温云松)
  • Duan Weihong (段伟红) 
  • "2.7 Billion" (27亿)
  • "New York Times" in Chinese and English
  • "Billion" 
  • "Chinese Leader"
Screenshots taken on October 27 show Sina Weibo censoring searches for
"New York Times," "Billions," and "Chinese Leader."
Search Censorship

Baidu restricted search results for "Wen Jiabao" and his son "Wen Yunsong" to its strict whitelist. It also banned Tieba forums on  their names, and claimed to be unable to find any results for their names in both its Zhidao Q&A and Wenku document sharing products.

Baidu also censored search results for the name of Wen's wife, Zhang Beili (张蓓莉) and his daughter, Wen Ruchun (温如春) by restricting search results to its broad white list.

A Baidu search for "Wen Jiahong" (温家宏) on October 27, 2012, returned no results, just a censorship notice.
Screenshot taken on December 31, 2012, shows a search on Baidu for
"Wen Jiabao site:nytimes.com" returns no results, just a censorship notice.

Translation: Huang Xuqin and Wang Jianbing Inciting Subversion Indictment

On June 14, 2024, the Twitter account "Free Huang Xueqin & Wang Jianbing 释放雪饼" (@FreeXueBing)  posted a copy of the last two p...