Saturday, July 30, 2011

After Protests in Anshun Over Beating by Chengguan, Sina Weibo Censors "Anshun Chengguan"

On July 27, the state sponsored China Daily published a report entitled "Crowd Riots After Death of Vendor." Some excerpts:
The death of a vendor, who was believed to have been killed by urban management officers in Southwest China's Guizhou province on Tuesday afternoon, caused a gathering of thousands of angry local residents. The unidentified vendor died in front of the gate of a market at Nanhua Lu, Xixiu district of Anshun city, at about 1:43 pm on Tuesday, which led to the gathering of the local people, according to a statement sent to China Daily from the publicity department of Anshun. 
The statement did not give details of the cause of the vendor's death, only saying that "before the incident occurred, chengguan (urban management officers) were working in the area". According to a video clip uploaded onto the website by an unidentified netizen, a vehicle with the sign "12319" on it, the local phone number of chengguan, was destroyed and turned over in the middle of the road. Many police officers were trying to break up the angry crowd.
This screenshot was taken on July 29, and shows that search on Sina Weibo for "Anshun chengguan" (安顺 城管) returned no results, just a censorship notice.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Police Station Attacked in Hotan, Examples of Sina Weibo and Search Engine Censorship

On July 18, 2011, the state sponsored People's Daily published an article entitled "Police Station in Hotan, Xinjiang Attacked, Several Attackers Shot Dead" (新疆和田派出所遭袭 数名袭击者被击毙). It published an English version of the article the following day entitled "Rioters Gunned Down, Hostages Rescued in Xinjiang Police Station Attack." Some excerpts:
Police gunned down several rioters who attacked a police station and killed four people in Hotan city of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Monday noon, sources with the Ministry of Public Security said.
Rioters broke into the police station shortly after 12 p.m.. They assaulted the police, took hostages and set fire to the station, according to the ministry.
A member of the armed police, a security personnel and two hostages were killed during the ordeal, the ministry said, adding that another security personnel was severely injured.
These screenshots were taken on July 18, and show that on that day searches on Sina Weibo for "Xinjiang" (新疆) and "Hotan" (和田) returned no results, just a censorship notice.

These screenshots were taken on July 21, and show that a search for "Xinjiang" is returning results, and in fact provides “Xinjiang Hotan” (新疆和田) as a suggested search term. But when a user clicks on that link (outlined in red), they are taken to a page with no results, just a censorship notice.

The Global Times subsequently published several articles regarding the July 18 incident in Hotan, Xinjiang:

The last article included the following statement:
On July 19, anti-terrorism expert Li Wei told the "Global Times," that this terrorist surprise attack in Hotan was a violent attack similar to the Mumbai surprise attack that took place several days ago, and the hostage taking, whether in terms of methods, tools, targets or form, were all consistent with a classic international terrorism incident. But the West ignores this, and conflates it with Han and Uighur ethnic contradictions, and panders to the "World Uygur Congress" version, and creates problems for China. So China faces a predicament that is similar to many non-Western countries when they trying to fight terrorism. 

The Global Times’ website also put up a video entitled “Hu Xijin: Western Media Broadcasts On Behalf of the World Uyghur Congress, How China Handles It” (胡锡进:西媒替世维会传谣 中国怎应对)

The screenshot below was taken on July 22, and shows a search for the Chinese abbreviation for “World Uyghur Congress" (世维会) on the Sogou search engine returns no results, just a notice that says “The keywords you entered may relate to content that does not comply with relevant laws and regulations.” (您输入的关键词可能涉及不符合相关法律法规的内容。)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two China Media Figures Quit Sina Weibo Over Censorship

On July 14, two China-based bloggers, Song Shinan (宋石男) and Jia Jia (贾葭), simultaneously published announcements on their blogs that they would no longer be posting to Sina's Weibo. As the screenshots below show, their blog posts (which linked to one-another) were deleted in less than an hour. 

The articles were also deleted from other blogging services where they had been reposted.

Jia's post was entitled "Everyone is a Victim-Dear Sina Weibo" (每个人都是受害者——致新浪微博), and it was originally available here: Here is an excerpt:
It was around February 2010 when two Sina Weibo editors repeatedly called asking me to open a Sina Weibo account. In early 2009 I had opened a Twitter account around the time of the big CCTV building fire, and I wasn't particularly interested in domestic copy-cat products, but the inability of so many friends to circumvent the Great Firewall left me with no choice but to try Weibo, so I agreed to register. The address was / jajia, and my verified identity was "GQ" Magazine Senior Editor.
. . . .
In early December last year, because of a certain porcelain brand, I was unilaterally blocked for 15 days. I was the only person who could see what I wrote, others couldn't see it (and many other users had been unilaterally designated in this manner). In May of this year, because of some black seeds, my speech was censored for 26 long days (there are even more users who are like this). In the past half year my ID has been hidden and my account has not been searchable by other users. On June 12, after I merely reposted some photos of the Zengcheng incident I was immediately banned from logging into my account.
I want to particularly note that, during those latter two incidents Netease, Tencent, Sohu, and Phoenix did not block or delete my speech. Those familiar with Internet management should know that when it comes to microblog censorship, there is only one set of requirements, and Sina Weibo wouldn't be subjected to stricter orders or a broad blocking scope. The conclusion is therefore obvious that during the latter two incidents the scope of Sina Weibo's censorship was self-imposed.
As a someone who works in media, I have a deep understanding of where the bottom lines are when it comes to speech in China. Most of the time when a given topic becomes the subject of heated public discussion, certain concessions will be made in the scope of censorship. If the volcano of public opinion is rashly kindled, the consequences will be unthinkable. Its a game of struggle and compromise. In other words, when everyone takes a step forward, the bottom line will take a step back. 
. . . .

Song's post was entitled "Why I Left Sina Weibo" (我为什么离开新浪微博), and it was originally available here: Here are some excerpts:

In the past I have asserted that the structure of Sina Weibo and the structure of Chinese society have much in common. Now I think I only go it half right. It would be more accurate to put it this way: The user structure of Sina Weibo and the structure of Chinese society have much in common in that the means by which Sina Weibo is ruled has much in common with the means by which totalitarians rule.
What are the means by which totalitarians rule? Please allow me to quote a paragraph: "Don't let them have judgment. Just give them cars, motorcycles, stars, stimulating music, fashionable clothes, and a sense of competitiveness. Deprive them of their thinking and root them in obedience to the orders of their leaders. Let them think that any idea that is different from the groups is the enemy of the public." It was not Cao Guowei or Chen Tong who said this, it was Hitler.
Of course, Sina Weibo is also advancing with the times, and its ruling method is rich in Chinese characteristics. Sina CEO Cao Guowei once honestly confessed: "When a sensitive topic crops up, Sina can creatively limit the content of conversations instead of deleting it entirely." This is like a rapist saying that when he encounters a stunner, he can creatively go down on them instead of sticking it right in.
I am going to further expose this "creatively restricting the content of conversations." It is nothing more than these four: 1, deleting posts 2, masking posts 3, banning speech 4, deleting accounts.
As for deleting posts there isn't much to say - its the same everywhere. The treacherous thing about Sina is that they rarely use the method of directly deleting posts, but use masks and bans.
Masking is a creative invention of Sina, with both hard and soft masking. Hard masking is when only you can see on your own posts, and they won't appear on your followers' TL (timeline). Even if they click on your Weibo page, they can't see it; soft masking is when the post won't appear in your followers' TL, but if they click on your Weibo page, they can see it. Masking posts is a crafty, bloodless murder, a monumental restriction on the spread of posts of which the parties remain completely oblivious.
Banning speech is yet another creative invention of Sina. Getting banned is also called "getting locked up in the small black house." Every Weibo sent by the banned person will be reviewed and then released or delayed. Even if it is released, it has almost zero chance of spreading because it tends to fall out of the TL of the followers within a few hours of publication. It is worth mentioning that it is not only the posts of the banned person that will be delayed, but also their responses and replies.
From Sina's perspective banning speech carries with it two main benefits: 1. It saves labor costs. Sina has thousands of Weibo network administrators, but in the face of the vast ocean of public wars there will always be unstoppable forces. 2. It forces users to self-censor. This is particularly despicable. In order to avoid being banned, users often self-censor their speech. Those who have been banned are even more inclined to develop fear and depression. When they are once again able to post Weibo, they will inevitably have a "grateful heart" and a "nervous heart."
Banning speech may seem to be part of the national condition, when it fact it is actually a lynching. It is like the next big move in the central government's game, after it has quietly raising the stakes in this little corner it will eventually easily wipe the board of those who fail to fall in line. One can more or less understand why Sina Weibo deletes and masks posts, because they have to protect themselves. It is also understandable that businessmen would be willing to arbitrarily delete and mask, because the little bureaucrats must protect their rice bowls. But banning speech crosses the line and is incomprehensible and unacceptable. Because banning speech is a great insult to people, and it is an arbitrary violation of people's fundamental rights. There is no essential difference between this kind deprivation of personal liberty and something like reeducation through labor.
Today, Sina Weibo can ban me from speaking because I posted "sensitive Xinhua News" it can ban him because he criticized Sina and ban her because she had a conflict of interest with Sina. It may ban you tomorrow for any reason whatsoever. An oligopoly that hides behind "following orders from Internet Control" can abuse its power and control all netizens without any reason, without having to follow any rules or accept any punishment.
Therefore, on Sina Weibo, netizens who have been banned for a long time or had their IDs directly deleted have formed a unique phenomenon called the “reincarnation party” (registering a new ID, adding the words "II, III" after their original user name). Xiao Yu, who has been reincarnated 40 or 50 times, is one of the representative figures. However, Xiao Yu finally couldn't bear it anymore. At the end of last month, he spent nearly 8 hours, and deleted all of his 8,539 microblogs (perhaps nearly 18,000 mouse clicks) and left Sina. Xiao Yu is a well-known person, and his reincarnation or departure could draw some attention every time. But there are still a large number of unknown reincarnates who can only die silently, live silently, and be filled with perseverance throughout.
. . . .
Let it be known that we must fight. "An orderly society cannot rely solely on a reign of silence built on people's fear of punishment to maintain it." The same is true of Weibo.
[N.B. This is a direct translation. However, it appears to be referring to the concurrence of Justice Brandeis in Whitney v. California - "[O]rder cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction."]
Let it be known that we must choose, "There are only two choices for people, either to recognize that existence must be prioritized over freedom, or to recognize that freedom must be prioritized over existence." My choice is the latter.
Let it be known that we must unite, "No man is an island." If Sina silences you, it silences everyone, because freedom is indivisible, as long as a single person is enslaved, there is no freedom.
As mentioned above, my friend Jia Jia and I left Sina Weibo today. Sina thinks that everyone can surrender their dignity and put up with their arbitrary torture for a tiny and  pathetic opportunity to have their voice heard. But I am sorry, we can't.
 So I am leaving, for those friends who remain on Sina Weibo, you don't have to be regretful or sentimental. I believe that in the near future, there will be more people like me. And like me they will go online like those who don't have Sina. 
我来进一步揭穿这种“创造性地限制谈话内容”的手法。无非四种:1、删帖 2、屏蔽贴 3、禁言 4、删ID。
. . . .

Sunday, July 17, 2011

People's Daily Op Eds Debate Free Speech on the Internet

The following are translated excerpts from parts 4 and 5 of a series of People’s Daily editorials published between July 11 and July 15 under the heading “Handling Internet Users and Online Opinion Well” (善待网民和网络舆论). I think they capture nicely the ambivalent utilitarian approach regulators take towards the Internet.

The "Ecological Governance" of Online Opinions (网络舆论的“生态治理”)
At the end of the day, if information flows freely, then online opinion has a certain kind of "self correcting" functionality. Rumors of Jin Yong's death got their start on Weibo, and were quickly dispelled on Weibo. Weibo was one of the main forces for dispelling rumors of radiated salt after the Japan earthquake. Not long ago an actor attacked homosexuals on Weibo, and was subject to universal criticism by Internet users. Practice has shown that permitting different voices to fully express themselves and freely discuss is conducive to a peaceful Internet environment. 
The Netizenry, The People, and The Citizenry" (网民、人民和公民)
Why not go back to the attitude shown in the famous statement Deng Xiaoping made during his Southern Campaign regarding the initial excitement about securities and stock markets: "good or bad, is there any danger": "Are securities and the stock market good or bad? Do they entail any dangers? Are they peculiar to capitalism? Can socialism make use of them? We allow people to reserve their judgement, but we must try these things out. If, after one or two years of experimentation, they prove feasible, we can expand them. Otherwise, we can put a stop to them and be done with it. We can stop them all at once or gradually, totally or partially. What is there to be afraid of? So long as we keep this attitude, everything will be all right, and we shall not make any major mistakes." 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sina Weibo Censors Searches for "Zang Jiebin" - Official Who Said Westerners Exercise More Control Over Media Than China

On July 10, 2011, a video was shared on social media websites in China in which Zang Jiebin (臧杰斌), the deputy mayor of Xiamen, was shown saying:
Last April, I went to Germany to make some observations and study, and stayed there for two weeks. Afterwards I went to understand what Germany's Internet situation was like. Germany is a progressive country, extremely civilized, industrially well-developed, in fact its well-developed in every way. Its the strongest nation in Europe, but the ordinary people, geez, when they want to get on that Internet, its very very hard!

So, everyone, living in our nation of China, many people attack us and say, we Chinese, our government, censor the news and are too strict in controlling ideology. But that's really not the case. Westerners exercise far more control than we do over ideology and new media.

One should say that our country is an extremely civilized, an extremely democratic country. Everyone should feel grateful. It is very easy for us to get on the Internet. Over there you to jump through a bunch of approval bottlenecks, a bunch of channels, and only then can you get on the Internet. And it costs a lot. 
去年的四月份,我到德国去进行考察、学习,在那儿呆了半个月。后来我去了解德国上网怎么样,德国是个先进国家吧,高度文明,工业很发达,各方面都很 发达,是欧洲大陆最大的强国,这个普通老百姓啊,要上这个互联网,非常非常难!所以大家,生活在我们中国这个国度,大家很多人攻击说我们大陆啊, 我们政府啊,对新闻封锁,对意识形态管得太严,其实不是这样,西方人对这个意识形态,对这种新新媒体,它的管理远远超过我们。应该说我们的国家,是非常文 明、非常民主的国家,大家应该感到很幸福。我们现在上互联网很简单,在那里要经过很多很多的审批途径,很多渠道,那么才能上网,而且费用很高。
 On July 11 the state-sponsored Southern Metropolitan Daily published a report entitled “Xiamen Deputy Mayor: Its Really Hard to Get Online in Germany With Its Multiple Levels of Approvals and High Fees” (厦门副市长:德国上网非常难层层审批费用高). Some excerpts:
A student from Tubingen University told the SMD that German Universities give every student free Internet access, and German families do not need to undergo government review when applying for broadband, they only need to select a telecommunication company and sign a contract with them.

The report was quickly deleted.

Original URL:

On July 12 the Global Times published a report entitled “Chinese Official Goes Abroad and Criticizes Difficulties With Going Online in Germany” (中国官员出国后贬德国上网难). Some excerpts:
Currently Germany has three main Internet service providers. Ordinarily, prior to handling Internet access, these companies investigate a user's criminal record and credit rating, and where a serious crime was previously committed they will not allow the user access, or will they will be subject to strict surveillance when going online.

The report was quickly deleted.

Original URL:

On July 13, the German Embassy responded with a post on its Sohu blog saying:
Anyone can go online without any problems. It is also not necessary to go through any official agency approval whatsoever. . . Although a small amount of content is prohibited (for example, denying the holocaust or Nazi symbols), the orders imposing these prohibitions are imposed through a democratic process by the parliament and they are clearly set forth in the law.

任何人都可以上网,无任何 问题。也不需要通过任何官方机构的审批. . . . 虽然有极少数内容是被禁止的(比如否定纳粹大屠杀,或者纳粹的标志), 但这些禁令是议会通过民主的程序决定并在法律中明文写下的。
Original URL:

This screenshot was taken on July 12, 2011, and shows that Sina Weibo was censoring search results for “Zang Jiebin” (臧杰斌).

Friday, July 15, 2011

China Think Tank Expert: Internet Freedom "Completely Anathema"

On July 14, 2011, the state-sponsored Southern Weekend published an article entitled “‘Targeted Attacks on Networks,’ Who Is The Main Culprit?” (“网络特攻”,谁主沉浮?). Some excerpts:
The international strategy for the Internet space formulated by the United States promotes so-called "Internet freedom," advocates an Internet without walls, and opposes sovereignty over the Internet. [Ning Jiajun, Deputy Director, Expert's Committee, State Information Center (国家信息中心专家委员会主任宁家骏) said:] "These are all things that are completely anathema to many of the things in our country, and when one reads between the lines, they represent a significant threat to us."


Sunday, July 10, 2011

China's Websites Censor False Rumors About JIang Zenmin's Death

On July 8, 2011, the state-sponsored website published an article entitled “ATV Apologizes Over False Report of Jiang Zemin's Death.” Some excerpts:
Hong Kong broadcaster Asia Television Limited (ATV) has apologized for broadcasting an erroneous report of the death of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin on Wednesday night.
. . . .
ATV withdrew its report about the death of the former president after China's official Xinhua News Agency dismissed the report at midday, quoting "authoritative sources".
It said recent reports of some overseas media organizations about Jiang Zemin's death from illness are "pure rumor".
About one hour after Xinhua's clarification, the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong voiced "great indignation" through Hong Kong China News Agency.
These screenshots were taken on July 6, 2011, and show that searches on Sina's Weibo microblogging platform for several numbers associated with Jiang returned no results, just a notice saying that in accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, search results have not been displayed:

  • 84: Jiang's age.
  • 301: a reference to the People’s Liberation Army General 301 Hospital in Beijing where top leaders are often treated. 
  • 1926: the year Jiang was born.

These screenshots were taken the same day and show that Sina Weibo was also censoring searches for “River” (江), “Brain Dead” (脑死亡), and passed away (去世).

These screenshots show that on July 6 the Youdao search engine returned over 300 results for "Jiang Zemin Died" (江泽民 死了), but by July 7 Youdao said that it was unable to find any results for the same search terms.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Baidu and Sina Weibo Censor "7.5" On Second Anniversary of July 5, 2009 Xinjiang Unrest

On July 4, 2011, the state sponsored Global Times published an article entitled "Getting Over It." Some excerpts:
Two years after deadly riots in Urumqi shocked the nation and the world, the capital of northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region appears to be a model of peace and stability, held together by increased security measures and improving living conditions.
. . . .
The increased number of armed police patrolling downtown streets seems to be one of the only reminders that there was an ugly episode of violence that took the lives of 197 people.
To help guarantee peace in the city, some 40,000 surveillance cameras have also been installed on buses, in schools, supermarkets and on the streets. 
. . . .
He Weifang, law professor at Peking University who worked at the Shihezi University in Xinjiang from 2009 to 2011, said the region is “over-emphasizing stability preservation.”
“It’s understandable that stability is very important for a complex place like Xinjiang. But if the government over-emphasizes stability preservation, it might misread some message and overact,” he was quoted by Phoenix TV as saying. “In this case, it might fuel tension between Han and Uyghur people,” he added.  Most of those who died in the 2009 riots were Han. 
This screenshot was taken on July 5, 2011, and show that a search on Baidu's Tieba () Postbar forum for "75" (七五) returned no results, just a notice saying "Apologies, in accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, this forum cannot be opened at this time." (抱歉,根据相关法律法规和政策,本吧暂不开放。):

These screenshots were also taken on July 5, 2011, and show that searches on Sina Weibo for "7.5" and "75"(七五) returned no results, just a notice saying "In accordance with relevant laws, regulations, and policies, searches for '7.5/七五' have not been displayed" (根据相关法律法规和政策,“何培蓉”搜索结果未予显示).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On 90th Anniversary of Communist Party's Founding, Sina Weibo Censors "Communist Party"

July 1, 2011, was the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

The following screenshots show search results for Sina's Weibo micro-blogging service on that day.

Ok: Capitalism [资本主义]
Not Ok: Communism [共产主义]
Ok: Republican Party [国民党]
Not Ok: Communist Party [共产党]
Ok: Ma Yingjiu, Obama [奥巴马]
Not Ok: Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao [胡锦涛,温家宝]
Ok: Chiang Kaishek [蒋介石]
Not Ok: Mao Zedong [毛泽东]

Translation: Huang Xuqin and Wang Jianbing Inciting Subversion Indictment

On June 14, 2024, the Twitter account "Free Huang Xueqin & Wang Jianbing 释放雪饼" (@FreeXueBing)  posted a copy of the last two p...