Thursday, February 9, 2017

China Professor Decries Political Censorship by "Foreign Company" Tencent

On July 18, 2016, the state sponsored Global Times published an article entitled "Scholar Wants Foreign Capital Expelled From China’s Social Media." Some excerpts:
Zhang Hongliang, a professor at Beijing's Minzu University of China, said on his WeChat account on Saturday that he is preparing to sue Chinese Internet titan Tencent for yielding to commercial pressure to "arbitrarily" block public WeChat posts. Tencent - WeChat's parent company, whose largest shareholder is MIH Group, a subsidiary of South African media group Naspers - recently threatened to shut down Zhang's public account when he released a post denouncing Chinese specialty beverage maker JDB Group Ltd for defaming war hero Qiu Shaoyun, Zhang said.
. . . .
Many people share Zhang's worries, especially after posts and comments criticizing actress-turned-director Zhao Wei for inviting a suspected Taiwan separatist to act in her new movie - including posts by the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China - quickly disappeared from Weibo and major news portals, according to news site  
"Netizens were shocked. Capital is so powerful that they can block any kind of voice they dislike," said in a commentary on Friday.
For background on the Qiu Shaoyun (邱少云) case referred to above, see Supreme People's Court Model Case: Joking About Dead Heroes Is Defamation.

Here are some excerpts from Zhang Hongliang's (张宏良) article published on the National Revival Web on July 16, 2016 entitled "Resolutely Defend Revolutionary Martyrs, Ban Foreign Enterprises From Regulating Citizens' Speech" (坚决捍卫革命烈士,严禁外企裁决公民言论):
Yesterday morning, July 15, the Beijing Daxing Court issued a judgment in the case of an ultra-rightist elitist and the Jia Duo Bao company smearing and vilifying Qiu Shaoyun. But it seemed as though the media maintained their silence. Previously myself and the National Revival Web had published articles appealing on this matter, appealing for everyone to defend the reputation of national heroes who became revolutionary martyrs by sacrificing their lives to give us the happy lives we enjoy today. But this article that called for the defense of the martyr Qiu Shaoyun did not get reposted on a single website other than National Revival Web. 
After Tencent saw this situation, they directly warned the author that they would completely shut down the Weixin public account of Zhang Hongliang if he published another article that was critical of Jia Duo Bao. I have already spoken with a lawyer, and I am preparing to sue Tencent. But while we were speaking, my feeling was that the most infuriating and tragic aspect of this was not the fact that an ultra-rightist had vilified a revolutionary martyr, nor was it the fact that Jia Duo Bao had offered a prize of 100,000 cans of tea to vilify a martyr, nor was it Tencent's high-handedness.  
Rather, it is the fact that China's government has handed over to a foreign invested company the power to make decisions about the rights of Chinese citizens to debate China's national affairs, and foreign invested companies get to decide what Chinese citizens can and cannot say.  
One can only say that this is China's greatest tragedy. 
To allow a foreign invested company to make determinations about the political speech of a a nation's citizens is something without precedent in human history for any independent country. No country, not even those so-called free and democratic Western countries, would permit private companies to interfere with, and make determinations about, citizens' speech.