Saturday, June 18, 2016

Baidu and Sina Weibo Censor Search Results About Hong Kong Bookseller Lam Wing-kee

For additional background, see also: Baidu Begins Censoring "Gui Minhai" - Hong Kong Bookseller Detained in China 

Shortly after 3:00 am on June 17, 2016, the state sponsored Global Times published an editorial entitled "Causeway Bay Bookstore Boss' Retraction' Has Little Factual Content" (铜锣湾店长“翻供”的实质内容不多). Some excerpts:
Lin Rongji (Lam Wing-kee), one of the "disappeared" booksellers of Causeway Bay, held a press conference on the 16th after having returned to Hong Kong. He adopted a posture of "retracting his confession" and created a lot of waves in Hong Kong public opinion.

Lin Rongji related details of how he was detained last year on October 24 at Luowu, Shenzhen, and then transferred by train to a "holding place" in Ningbo. He asserted that Causeway Bay bookshop owner Li Bo (Lee Po ) had been subjected to a "cross-border rendition" and abducted from Hong Kong by mainland Chinese law enforcement officials. This differs from the account provided by Li Bo.

He also said that  his own "televised confession" was "scripted," and he had been forced to cooperate.

Lin said "Mainland China's central government is forcing the people of Hong Kong down a path with no escape," and "The people of Hong Kong must say 'no' to coercion." These two statements were widely quoted, and were thick with emotion.

By noon on June 17 the editorial had been removed.
Screenshot showing the Global Times
editorial before it was deleted.
Original URL:

Later that evening the Global Times published another article about Lam, this time entitled “Shareholder Lee Bo Refutes What Causeway Bay Bookstore Boss Said in Press Conference” (股东李波反驳铜锣湾书店店长记者会说法).

These screenshots show that at the same time Sina Weibo stopped including users posts in search results for Lam’s name, instead only displaying the Global Times’ article refuting his claims.

That article was deleted the following day.

Screenshot showing the Global Times
article before it was deleted.
Original URL:

The screenshots below show that on June 17, Baidu began censoring web search results for "Lam Wing-kee" (林荣基). Although Baidu has stopped notifying users of its censorship, one can see that, prior to 2:30 pm on the 17th, a search for "Lam Wing-kee" returned tens of thousands of results, including results from news websites located outside of mainland China such as:
  • Phoenix (HK)
  • Tsingtao Daily (HK)
  • Takungpao (HK)
  • Tsingtao News Network (HK)
By 11:00 pm the same day, Baidu claimed it could find only 18 results, and they were all from websites operated by agencies of China's central government:
  • (Communist Youth League)
  • Xinhua (China’s Official News Agency)
  • People’s Daily (Official Party Mouthpiece)
  • China News Agency (China’s 2nd Largest State-Owned News Agency)
  • China Daily (China’s Official English Language Newspaper)
  • (Operated by China’s State Council Information Office)
  • (Operated by the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office)

These screenshots show that at the same time Baidu began censoring web search results, it also began claiming it could no longer find any Weibo related search results.