Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Caixin's Farewell to People We Lost in 2023 Censored

On December 30, 2023, Caixin (财新), a PRC state-sponsored media outlet well known for publishing articles that are subsequently censored by authorities, published an online tribute to people who passed away in 2023. The feature was titled "The Farewells We Said in 2023: On the Occasion of Bidding Farewell to the Old and Welcoming the New,  We Commemorate Those Who Have Passed Away and Reluctantly Bid Farewell. Keep Them in Mind as We Move Forward." (2023终有一别: 在辞旧迎新之际 纪念逝去的人 不舍的告别 铭记在心 向前走) It comprised photos of famous politicians, celebrities, and academics.

The feature was originally published at this URL: https://china.caixin.com/2023-12-24/102149416.html. But by December 31, 2023 that link was redirecting to a 404 page.


Archives of a Google cache version are available here:

Around the same time that the feature was censored, Hu Shuli (胡舒立), the founder and publisher of Caixin, took her Sina Weibo (https://weibo.com/u/1497882593) offline. This screenshot was taken on January 2, 2024, and shows that her Sina Weibo had over 5 million followers and 34,000 posts, but was only displaying a notice saying "No Content at the Moment." (archived at https://archive.ph/cAlE6)

These screenshots were taken on January 2, 2024, and show that none of the PRC's major search engines could find any result containing the full title of the Caixin feature "2023终有一别."

These screenshots were also taken on January 2, 2024, and show that in addition to providing users with cached versions of the Caixin feature, foreign search engines, such as Bing and Google, were able to find many results containing the full title of the Caixin feature.

At this time its not known why the feature was censored or why Hu Shuli took her Sina Weibo offline. However, several of the people featured had been the subjects of PRC censorship in the past. For example:

AIDS Whistleblower Gao Yaojie (高耀洁) 

 In the 1990s, tens of thousands of people in Henan were infected with HIV / AIDS after repeatedly selling their blood to collection stations that pooled it into a tub and then injected it back into them after taking the plasma. After initially covering up the incident, in 2001 the government claimed that 30,000 to 50,000 people may have been infected.

On November 30, 2010, the website of Aizhixing, a China-based NGO that advocates on behalf of people who have contracted AIDS, published an open letter from Chen Bingzhong to Hu Jintao. The letter, dated November 28, called asked Hu to launch an investigation into two senior officials for their role in the blood-selling AIDS scandal in Henan in the 1990s.

Chen's letter mentioned two activists that were instrumental in bringing the incident to light: Wan Yanhai, who fled to the United States in 2010 with his family because he said he feared for his safety, and Dr. Gao Yaojie.

According to Wikipedia: 

In 1999, the Ministry of Education named Gao "a model person concerned with the next generation," but did not invite her to the award ceremony. In 2001, Gao was awarded the Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human Rights. In 2002, she was named Time Magazine's Asian Heroine. In 2003, she was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service in Manila, Philippines. In both instances she was denied permission to travel outside China to accept the awards. She was also designated one of the "Ten People Who Touched China in 2003" by China Central Television. 

In February 2007, Gao was reported to be under house arrest and unable to travel. She had been pressured by local officials to sign a statement that she is "unable to travel due to poor health".

In May 2009, Gao fled to the United States, after fearing she would be placed under house arrest again.

This screenshot was taken on September 2, 2010, and shows that Baidu had banned users from setting up a Tieba (PostBar) forum about Gao Yaojie.

This screenshot was taken on December 8, 2010, and shows that Baidu was censoring search results for "Chen Bingzhong Open Letter."

SARS Whistleblower Jiang Yanyong (蒋彦永)

China's state sponsored media hailed Jiang Yanyong's whistleblowing: "Referring to his speaking out, Professor Jiang said: 'I believe what I did as a doctor has played a certain role in combating the epidemic.'" People's Daily, May 21, 2003,  http://en.people.cn/200305/21/eng20030521_117004.shtml. But as shown by the screenshot below taken on March 8, 2015, Baidu was still censoring search results for "Jiang Yanyong" (蒋彦永).

Legal Scholar Jiang Ping (江平)

 On October 11, 2010, 23 Chinese Communist Party elders submitted an open letter to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress calling for an end to restrictions on expression in China. The signatories included Li Pu (李普) former deputy director of Xinhua News Agency (he passed away the next month at the age of 92), Jiang Ping (江平) former President of China University of Political Science and Law, and member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and Li Rui (李锐) Mao Zedong’s former secretary. The letter included the following statement:

61 years after the founding of our nation, after 30 years of opening and reform, we have not yet attained freedom of speech and freedom of the press to the degree enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong under colonial rule. Even now, many books discussing political and current affairs must be published in Hong Kong. This is not something that dates from the [territory's] return, but is merely an old tactic familiar under colonial rule. The “master” status of the people of China’s mainland is so inferior. For our nation to advertise itself as having “socialist democracy” with Chinese characteristics is such an embarrassment.
建国61年,搞了30年改革开放,我们还没有得到香港人殖民地时代就有的言论出版自由。现在有些参政议政的书籍,要拿到香港出版,这不是回归祖国的福荫,是沿袭殖民时代的旧法。大陆人民的“当家作主”地位实在太窝囊。国家宣称的有中国特色的“社会主义民主”实在太尴尬。 
The letter concluded with a list of eight specific demands:
  • Abolish the requirement that media outlets must have government sponsors.
  • Respect journalists and make them strong.
  • Abolish restrictions on investigative journalism and ensure that journalists can report freely throughout the country.
  • Abolish the “Fifty-cent Party” and remove restrictions on anti-censorship technologies.
  • Eliminate the taboos concerning the history of the Communist Party’s history. 
  • Privatize Southern Weekly and Yanhuang Chunqiu.
  • Permit the free circulation within the mainland of books and periodicals from the already returned territories of Hong Kong and Macao. 
  • Transform the functions of various propaganda agencies from ones that assist corrupt officials in suppressing and controlling stories that reveal the truth to ones that support the media in monitoring Party and government organs.
This screenshot was taken on October 15, 2010, and shows that Baidu censored search results for the name Jiang Ping plus "open letter."

For more on this, see https://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/11/blast-from-past-censorship-of-responses.html.

On the morning of December 27, 2012, the state sponsored Caxin published an article entitled "People Take Notice of 'Proposal for Consensus on Reform'." ("改革共识倡议书"受关注).  An excerpt:

Recently, a "Proposal for Consensus on Reform" signed by scholars has been making the rounds on the Internet. The 72 signatories include Beijing Law School professors Zhang Qianfan and He Weifang, legal scholars Jiang Ping and Guo Daohui, lawyer Zhang Sizhi, and modern historian Zhang Lifan.
The Proposal believes that, while China's economy has achieved enormous progress over the last 30 years of reform, China's society has also seen the appearance of many problems. Owing particularly to the inability of political reforms to keep pace, bureaucratic corruption, abuses of power, an expanding wealth gap, and other issues have become increasingly severe, and are trigger strong disatsifaction in society.
. . . .
The signatories proposed six reforms that include promoting constitutional governance, holding democratic elections, respecting freedom of expression, deepening the market economy, implementing judicial independence, and ensuring compliance with the Constitution. The Proposal believes that this "should comprise a consensus for reform for all rational citizens. 
近日,一份由学者联署的《改革共识倡议书》在网上流布。参与联署的有北大法学院教授张千帆、贺卫方、法学家江平、郭道晖、律师张思之、近代史学者章立凡等72人。
倡议书认为,改革三十多年来,中国经济获得了巨大发展,但是中国社会也出现了诸多问题。尤其是由于政治改革未能同步进行,官僚腐败、公权滥用、贫富差距拉大等现象日趋严重,引发了强烈的社会不满。
. . . .
联署者就此提出推进依宪执政、落实选举民主、尊重表达自由、深化市场经济、实现司法独立、保障宪法效力等六项改革主张。倡议书认为,这“应构成所有理性公民所认同的改革共识”。

This screenshot, taken on the evening of December 27, shows that the article, originally available at this URL - http://china.caixin.com/2012-12-27/100477502.html - had already been deleted and replaced with a notice saying "Sorry, page not found." (对不起,页面没有找到)

For more on this, see: https://blog.feichangdao.com/2012/12/a-proposal-for-consensus-on-reform.html

Poisoned Student Zhu Ling (朱令)

On May 6, 2013, the state-sponsored Global Times published an article entitled "Cold Case Petition Grabs US Attention." An excerpt:
A poisoning case that permanently paralyzed a former Tsinghua University student has triggered an online petition on the White House's website, the newest development to a matter that has remained unsolved for 19 years so far. 
Zhu Ling, the victim and then chemistry major, suffered severe brain damage after being allegedly poisoned by thallium in 1994 by her roommate, Sun Wei, or Jasmine Sun, who now lives in the US.

PRC media initially called for new investigations (http://globaltimes.cn/content/779695.shtml), then the PRC government went to great lengths to censor discussion of it on social media. The following screenshots were taken on May 3, 2013, and show that Sina and Tencent were censoring searches for "Zhu Ling" (朱令). 


For more on this, see: http://blog.feichangdao.com/2013/05/sina-and-tencent-weibos-censor.html

Not the First Time

This is not the first time a New Year feature has been censored in a major PRC media outlet. On  January 3, 2013, posts began circulating on Sina Weibo saying that the Southern Weekend's  “New Year’s Greeting” (新年献词) was originally written by Dai Zhiyong (戴志勇) and entitled “China’s Dream, the Dream of Constitutionalism” (中国梦,宪政梦), but that the version that was ultimately published had been re-written by Tuo Zhen (庹震), the head of Guangdong Party Propaganda Department, without the knowledge or consent of editors. That version was entitled “We Are Now Closer to Our Dream Than Ever Before” (我们比任何时候都更接近梦想). 

On January 4, a group of prominent former Southern Weekly journalists published an open letter sharply criticizing Tuo's actions. The letter was published and translated by the China Media Project here - http://cmp.hku.hk/2013/01/04/30311. An excerpt:
The [original] theme of the New Year’s special edition of Southern Weekly was, “Blazing a New Trail with Untiring Determination: My Dream.” On January 2, after Southern Weekly had signed off on the final proofs, and completely without their knowledge, Guangdong CCP Standing Committee member and propaganda chief Tuo Zhen (庹震) directed that many alterations and replacements be made to the New Year’s special edition. This resulted in numerous errors and accidents. 
This unconscionable act resulted in the forced insertion of a text rife with errors in a New Year’s letter that is a longstanding tradition at Southern Weekly, including a grade-school error on the front page, “2000 years ago King Yu combatted the floods.” (This should be 4,000 years ago). 
南方周末2013年新年特刊主题为“筚路蓝缕、不懈不止:家国梦”。1月2日,在南方周末已经签版定样、编辑记者休假、完全不知情的状态下,广东省委常委、宣传部长庹震,指示对新年特刊做出多处修改、撤换,并导致多处错误、事故。
恶劣无极者,当属在南方周末经典性的新年献词中强行塞入错误频出的文字,以致头版出现“2000年前大禹治水”(应为4000年前)的低级错误。

These screenshots show that at that time Baidu began restricting search results for the original title of the Southern Weekend New Year's Greeting - "Chinese Dream, The Dream of Constitutionalism" (中国梦 宪政梦) - to its broad white list.



For more on the Southern Weekend New Years Greeting censorship, see these previous blog posts:


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