Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On 8th Anniversary of Zhao Ziyang's Death, Sina, Tencent, and Baidu Censor Searches for His Name

Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) was the third Premier of the People's Republic of China from 1980 to 1987, and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1987 to 1989. He died on January 17, 2005.

These screenshots show that on January 17, 2013, both Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were censoring searches for "Zhao Ziyang."

These screenshots, also taken on January 17, show that Baidu was censoring searches for "Zhao Ziyang" on its web search and "PostBar" (贴吧 "Tieba" a forum service), and claims to be unable to find any results on its "Encyclopedia" (百科 “Baike” a wikipedia service), "Knows" (知道 "Zhidao" a Q&A service) and "Library" (文库 "Wenku" a document sharing service) products.

Compare that with Baidu's treatment of searches for another former PRC Premier - Zhou Enlai -

The screenshot below shows that Baidu's Encyclopedia  included an entry for Zhao Ziyang until at least  February 22, 2012. At that time users had noted that the entry appeared to be open for editing. Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, was quoted in the South China Morning Post as saying: "This could be a signal that the central government wants to free up public discussion about Zhao" and "If we ponder deeply about this issue, it appears the central government is moving towards reform and democracy."

By February 24, however, the Zhao Ziyang article was no longer available. Note that, in comparison of Baidu's treatment of Zhao and Zhou above, the URL for the search result for Zhao Ziyang on Baidu's Encyclopedia includes the parameter "flag=forbid."

On February 25, 2012, the South China Morning Post quoted a Baidu spokesperson as saying about the reasons behind the appearance and disappearance of the Zhao Ziyang Encylopedia entry: "We are not clear and it's not convenient to talk about it."