Censorship Associated with the UN Visit to Xinjiang
In late May, 2022, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made an official visit to China. Here is an excerpt from her statement issued on May 28:
I should state from the outset what this visit was – and what it wasn’t. This visit was not an investigation – official visits by a High Commissioner are by their nature high-profile and simply not conducive to the kind of detailed, methodical, discreet work of an investigative nature. The visit was an opportunity to hold direct discussions – with China’s most senior leaders – on human rights. . .
This screenshot was taken on June 15, and shows Baidu claiming it has indexed over 80k web pages of the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (http://ohchr.org).
But Baidu can't (apparently) locate any web pages from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' website containing the word "Xinjiang" (新疆). These screenshots were taken on June 15, 2022, and show that searches for "Xinjiang site:ohchr.org" and "新疆 site:ohchr.org" returned no results.
Yahoo was able to 84 results (including Bachelet's statement).
According to her statement, Bachelet visited "the Kashgar Experimental School, a former Vocational Education and Training Centre" (前身是职业教育培训中心的喀什市特区实验学校). PRC Internet companies regularly censor topics relating to Xinjiang generally, and these "Vocational Education and Training Centers" in particular. This screenshot was taken on May 21, 2022 and shows what happens when a user used Sogou's English language search engine to search for "Xinjiang" – no results.
Prior to June 2022, Tencent-owned Sogou worked with Microsoft's Bing to provide English language results at https://english.sogou.com. If a user searched for a censored term, Sogou returned no results. This screenshot was taken the same day and shows the Bing search results that Sogou was censoring.
These screenshots show that Sogou's Bing-powered English language search engine could find results for "reeducation," (left) but none for "reeducation camp" (right - despite the fact that the first result for "reeducation" was titled "America's 'Re-Education' Camps").
This screenshot shows that a search for "reeducation camp" in English on Sogou's own Chinese-language search engine only returns results from PRC-based websites.
The left screenshot shows that a Baidu search for "Xinjiang reeducation camps" in May 2018 returned results from foreign websites with .org and .gov domains. The right screenshot was taken on May 21, 2022 and shows the same search only returns results from media under the direct control of the PRC govt.: Xinhua, CCTV, China Daily, China Radio International, China Military Net, http://china.com.cn, or http://china.org.cn.
And lest someone should speculate that there might be .org results (like those from wikipedia or the United Nations) buried in a later Baidu SERP, this screenshot taken the same day show that Baidu searches for "Xinjiang reeducation camps" limited to .org domains returned zero results.
The same thing happens in Chinese - these screenshots show that a Baidu search for "Xinjiang Reeducation" (新疆 再教育) limiting results to the United Nations returns no results, while the same search on Bing returns four results.
These screenshots show that Baidu has indexed the first 2 Bing search results, so the most likely explanation for why they don't appear in a search for "Xinjiang Reeducation" (新疆 再教育) is Baidu is restricting results for those keywords to government-approved sources.
Finally, its worth noting that censorship used to be much more transparent, and what gets censored varies over time. For example, this screenshot taken in 2009 shows that at that time Sogou blacklisted searches for "Xinjiang Government Flaws" (新疆 政府 缺陷), and only returned a censorship notice.
Today, Sogou conceals their censorship of "Xinjiang Government Flaws" (新疆 政府 缺陷) by not showing a censorship notice, while appearing to show a variety of results, when in fact the results are all from websites under the direct control of the PRC government.