Monday, July 14, 2014

How Does Baidu Decide an Online Forum is Legal or Illegal? Murong Xuecun vs. Xu Caihou

On March 16, 2010, the state sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “Young, Free, and Cynical“ about Murong Xuecun’s (慕容雪村) book, “Leave Me Alone, A Novel of Chengdu,” which had recently been translated into English. Some excerpts:
His books have been read by millions before they even go to press. This bestselling author is known for depicting corruption, sex, violence and the truth about modern Chinese society in stark detail. An entire city government tried to speak out about his book, believing that his honest observations would damage their image.
On July 6, 2014, Murong Xuecun published the following statement on Sina Weibo:
“Notice of Surrender”

Two months ago, Pu Zhiqiang, Xu Youyu, Hao Jian, Hu Shigen, and Liu Di were arrested on suspicion of “provoking quarrels.” Their so called provocation was merely a single home gathering, with about a dozen people meeting at Hao Jian's home and discussing the Tiananmen incident of 25 years before, who afterwards were afterwards deemed criminals. Originally I was also supposed to be there, but as luck would have it on the day of the meeting I had to go to the University of Sydney to be a visiting scholar, so I only made a written statement that discussed my own understandings and views of the Tiananmen Incident. It never occurred to me that in this so-called People's Republic even such a minor matter could deemed a criminal act. I posted an announcement online stating that I had also participated in their provoking quarrels, even though physically I was out of the country. I asked authorities to extend the time limit, and wait until I had completed my trip to the University of Sydney, when I would return to China and give myself up.

I absolutely do not approve of their detentions, but I also do not feel that I should be given an preferential treatment. I engaged in the same actions they did, and cannot remain aloof from this matter. I have already returned to Beijing, and await detention by the authorities at their convenience. For 24 hours following the publication of this surrender notice I will wait in my home in Haidian. When you come please bring the relevant credentials. After 24 hours, please call ahead and make an appointment.

Hao Qun (Murong Xuecun)



At 5:47 in the evening on July 8, Murong Xuecun posted this statement on Twitter:
I am at the Wanshou Temple police station, waiting for state security to come get me to drink tea.
At 4:07 in the morning on July 9, Murong Xuecun posted this statement on Twitter:
I have returned home safely, thanks to all my friends for their concern.”
These screenshots shows that, at some time between Murong Xuecun’s two Twitter posts, Baidu shut down the Murong Xuecun PostBar (贴吧 Tieba) forum.

 These screenshots show that Baidu did the same thing with Pu Zhiqiang’s PostBar forum when he was detained.

On July 1, 2014, the Global Times published an editorial entitled “Xu’s Expulsion Signals Cleaner, Stronger Army.” Some excerpts:
The expulsion of Xu Caihou from the CPC was hailed around the country. Xu, former military leader and member of the political bureau of the CPC Central Committee, was charged with corruption and position-selling.
. . . .
Before his expulsion was officially announced, speculations about Xu's "problems" had been circulating online for a while. But it was still an astonishing piece of news when the official announcement was made one day before the CPC's 93th birthday. It is possible that the top leadership is trying to send a signal to the public, pointing out the severity of corruption and showcasing the "zero-tolerance" determination and confidence to fight corruption.

Besides, making Xu's case headlines on July 1 also shows that there are no barriers that can obstruct the anti-graft efforts.
These screenshots show that, some time shortly after July 1, Baidu decided it was no longer a violation of “relevant laws, regulations, and policies” to allow its users to open a forum dedicated to discussion of Xu Caihou (徐才厚).