Friday, January 31, 2014

Global Times Says Xu Zhiyong Verdict Prompts Debate, While Sina Weibo Censors “Why We Believe He is Innocent”

On January 28, 2014, the state-sponsored Global Times published an article in English entitled “Xu Zhiyong Trial Prompts Debate.” Some excerpts:
"Despite knowing that organizing people to gather in public places for certain appeals and holding banners would draw onlookers, which could easily disrupt social order and cause participants to resist law enforcement, Xu kept doing so and did not take effective measures to prevent such consequences," the court stated when giving grounds for the conviction in the indictment.

However, in a document posted online late Sunday evening, five law professors called for a review into the legal basis for Xu's charges.
. . . .
Peng Bing, a professor with Peking University and one of the five scholars, confirmed to the Global Times his views on the opinion piece. "It was a mere academic discussion on the legality of the verdict. We did not call for anything," Peng said.
The opinion mentioned by the Global Times was penned by Peng Bing (彭冰) and Gan Peizhong (甘培忠) of Peking University Law School), Yao Huanqing (姚欢庆) of Beijing People's University School of Law, Wang Yong (王涌) of China University of Politics and Law, and He Haibo (何海波) of Tsinghua University Law School.

The opinion was entitled “Why We Believe He Is Innocent: A Legal Opinion on Xu Zhiyong Conviction for Gathering Crowds to Create a Disturbance at a Public Venue” (为什么我们认为他无罪:对许志永聚众扰乱公共场所罪一审判决的法律意见).

This screenshot was taken on January 29, and shows that Sina Weibo was censoring searches for “Why We Believe He Is Innocent.”(为什么我们认为他无罪)

See also:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wife's Letter to Xu Zhiyong Disappears From Sina Weibo

On January 27, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published a letter (English | Chinese) from Cui Zheng (崔筝) to her husband, Xu Zhiyong, who had been sentenced to four year’s imprisonment the previous day. Some excerpts:
Finally, I’ve figured it out. Everyone has their own things they hold fast to – a bottom-line they won’t change to cater to or please others. I, too, have lines I won’t cross, no matter how much you beg me to.  Therefore, I don’t blame you at all for today’s result and I accept it calmly. But it is not because what you persist in doing is noble to me. It’s because fate has pushed you the point where you must chose to persist and give up on everything else.
. . . .
You should discuss the details of a second trial with Lawyer Zhang before the Spring Festival. I don’t have the energy to get involved any more. But still I hope you will walk the path of this process to the end. I don’t want you to give up, even if there is only a theoretical chance of success.
. . . .
These screenshots show that on January 28th and 29th, posts containing references to the letter were repeatedly deleted.

Additional coverage of Xu Zhiyong:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Baidu Censors Results for Xu Zhiyong's Closing Statement to the Court

During his trial on January 22, 2014, Xu Zhiyong attempted to read a statement to the court entitled “For Freedom, Justice and Love — My Closing Statement to the Court.”(许志永法庭陈词:最后为了自由·公义·爱).

On January 26, the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing announced that it had found Xu guilty of gathering groups to cause disorder in public venues, and had sentenced him to four years imprisonment.

These screenshots show that Baidu began censoring searches for “Xu Zhiyong Final Statement” (许志永 最后陈述) at about the time the court announced its verdict.

These screenshots were taken on January 26, and show that searches on Baidu for “'Xu Zhiyong  Court Closing Statement'” ("许志永法庭陈词") and “Xu Zhiyong ‘For Freedom, Justice, and Love’” (许志永 "为了自由公义爱") returned no results, just a censorship notice.

Additional coverage of Xu Zhiyong's case:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Xu Zhiyong Sentenced to 4 Years Imprisonment - A Chronicle of Recent Related Censorship

Court's Weibo Announcement
At 9:28 am on January 26, 2014, the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing published the announcement on its Sina Weibo:
On the morning of January 26, 2014, the the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing pronounced its judgment in the case of Xu Zhiyong gathering groups to cause disorder in public venues, finding that Xu Zhiyong had committed the crime of gathering groups to cause disorder in public venues, and in accordance with the law Xu Zhiyong had been sentenced to a term of four years imprisonment.
These screenshots show that, within minutes of the court announcing its verdict, Sina Weibo stopped censoring searches for “Xu Zhiyong.”

This is not the first time Sina stopped censoring Xu’s name to coincide with an official statement from the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing.  On January 22, 2014, the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing published the following announcement on its Sina Weibo:
Wang Gongquan confessed that he, together with Xu Zhiyong committed criminal acts by planning and inciting groups to disturb order at public venues, and he expressed deep introspection regarding his own behavior.  
These screenshots show that Sina Weibo stopped censoring searches for Xu Zhiyong’s name for a brief period after that announcement.

These screenshots show that both Baidu and Qihoo began censoring searches for “Xu Zhiyong” on or about January 22 - the day of his trial.

These screenshots were taken on January 25, and show that a search on Baidu for “Xu Zhiyong’s Court Statement” (许志永的法庭陈词) only returns results from a white list of about a dozen web sites operated by the central government and the Communist Party, none of which actually contains that phrase. Placing that phrase in quotation marks leads Baidu to return no results - just a censorship notice.

Additional coverage of Xu Zhiyong's case:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Global Times Says Ok to Advocate New Citizens' Movement, Constitutionalism, While Baidu Bans Forums on Those Topics

On January 23, 2014, the state-sponsored Global Times published an article entitled "Law Is No Threat to Citizen Movement" (依法审理许志永案,反对立场先行). Some excerpts:
Xu Zhiyong, a lawyer and main founder of the "New Citizens' Movement" in China, was charged with "gathering crowds to disrupt public order" and went on trial on Wednesday. Wang Gongquan, a well-known Chinese entrepreneur who had been detained but was out on bail yesterday, admitted he was also involved.
. . . .
Xu's effort to launch the "New Citizens' Movement" is not widely known to the Chinese public. Its influence can mainly be felt in academia and some groups of activists. Xu's advocacies, including constitutionalism, property disclosure of civil servants and education equality, can be expressed and are also echoed in Chinese society.

These advocacies are not incompatible with China's reforms. Xu, as well as other activists like him, will not likely be tried simply because they have these advocacies.

. . . .

These screenshots were taken on January 25, 2014, and show that Baidu had banned its users from establishing PostBar (Tieba 贴吧) forums on "New Citizens' Movement," (新公民运动) "Constitutionalism," (宪政) and "Civil Servants" (官员).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sina Weibo Censors "Liang Xiaojun" - Name of Lawyer Detained at Xu Zhiyong's Trial

On January 22, 2014, the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing published the following announcement on its Sina Weibo:
Wang Gongquan confessed that he, together with Xu Zhiyong committed criminal acts by planning and inciting groups to disturb order at public venues, and he expressed deep introspection regarding his own behavior.
The court did not mention that on that same day it was trying Xu Zhiyong for gathering crowds to disturb public order, and that a large crowd of people had gathered outside the court. One of those who had gathered at the court was Liang Xiaojun (梁小军), a criminal defense lawyer. On the afternoon of January 22, Liang posted the following message on Twitter:
Thanks to everyone for their concern! I’ve just been released from the Babaoshan police station. There are still a dozen or so petitioners in there.
These screenshots show that Sina Weibo began censoring searches for “Liang Xiaojun” (梁小军) hours after users began posting that he had been detained.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Baidu, Qihoo Censor Searches About New Aircraft Carrier

On January 20, 2014, the state-sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “New Aircraft Carrier ‘Under Construction’.” Some excerpts:
The second of China's four reportedly planned aircraft carriers is said to be under construction in a port city in Northeast China, raising the public's enthusiasm.

Wang Min, the Party chief of Northeast China's Liaoning Province, Saturday told a panel at the annual session of provincial legislature that the second carrier is being built at a shipyard in the port city of Dalian.
These screenshots were taken on January 20, and show that searches for “Liaoning Party Secretary Domestically Built Aircraft Carrier” (辽宁省委书记 国产航母) on Baidu and Qihoo were not returning any results, only a censorship notice.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti Detained, Sina Weibo Begins Censoring "Ilham"

On January 18, 2014, the state-sponsored Global Times published an editorial entitled “Leave No Chance for Malicious Preaching.” Some excerpts:
Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木·土赫提), a teacher of economics at the Minzu University of China, was reportedly arrested by police on Wednesday.
. . . .
Indeed, Tohti is no ordinary Joe. Closely watched by the World Uyghur Congress, he is known to have often given aggressive lectures in class. He founded the Uighur Online website in 2006, which was very active around the riots in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in 2009, which left nearly 200 people dead.
. . . .
Freedom of speech and thought is encouraged on campus. But freedom has boundaries. Teachers with malicious intent should not be allowed to freely preach to students.

Last year after several Uyghurs drove a car to ram into pedestrians near Tiananmen Square, Tohti said that what the government described as terrorists were probably people who wanted to set themselves on fire after being mistreated.

Tohti was attempting to find a moral excuse for terrorists.

Too many terrorist attacks involving Xinjiang have occurred in the past few years, killing many innocent people, including Uyghurs.

The authorities must resolutely crack down on the terrorists, as well as the "brains" behind them. Without the brains, the terrorists will be like a clueless mob.
The Chinese language version of the editorial was entitled “Do Not Give Separatism the Opportunity to “Preach” at Universities” (不给分裂势力在大学“布道”的机会).

These screenshots show that on January 17, Sina Weibo began censoring searches for “Ilham” (伊力哈木).

This screenshot, taken on January 16, Baidu was banning users from establishing a forum on “Ilham” on its PostBar (Tieba 贴吧) service.

This is not the first time Tohti has been detained.

On July 5, 2009, rioting took place between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The government reported that more than 150 people were killed during the clashes.

On July 6, Uighur Online was cited in a speech by Governor Bekri as a catalyst for the violence because it had helped instigate the rioting by spreading rumors. On July 6, Ilham Tohti told Radio Free Asia that he had gathered information about the riots but that he would not release it because the timing was too sensitive.

On July 7, Tohti reported that police had been watching his home and had called him. Tohti's last blog entry published on July 7, read: 
As the editor of Uyghur Online, I want only to tell Nur Bekri, 'You are right, everything you say is right, because you will decide everything. I have already offended too many powerful people, including yourself and others whom I don't want to and don't dare to offend. But right or wrong, there will be justice. I always tell myself [to be] cool and calm and make rational analyses. Going to court to resolve disputes is the fairest course of action in a lawful society. I have my own lawyer. When my trial comes up, don't appoint a lawyer for me. I will refuse any court-appointed lawyer. Even if we say that Uyghur Online and outsiders stirred thing up—stirred what up? People can think for themselves. If everything were working so well, why did so many people suddenly come out and riot? I think after this event the central government and the local government should give this some thought.
On July 8, 2009, Radio Free Asia reported that Tohti's whereabouts were unknown after he had been summoned from his home in Beijing.

On July 12, 2009, Chinese author Wang Lixiong (王力雄) and his wife Woeser, a noted Tibetan author and blogger, started an online petition calling for Tohti's release entitled “Appeal Regarding the Detention of Uighur Scholar Ilham Tohti" (关于维吾尔学者伊力哈木土赫提遭拘押的呼吁).

These screenshots were taken on July 23, 2009, and show that a search for “Ilham Appeal” (伊力哈木 呼吁) on Baidu and Sogou  returned no results, only a censorship notice.

Friday, January 17, 2014

China's Weibos Censor Posts That Go Against Propaganda Narrative of Xi Jinping's Baozi Shop Visit

On December 30, 2013, the state-sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “Xi Impresses With Steamed Bun Lunch.” Some excerpts:
President Xi Jinping's surprise visit to a fast food eatery in Beijing has drawn unprecedented attention over the past weekend, which shored up his everyman image that had rarely been seen among top-level Chinese officials in the past.

Blurred photos of Xi queuing at a restaurant, holding his own plates and dining at a table were posted online by Net users on Saturday afternoon, and soon went viral.

It was soon identified that Xi had paid a spontaneous visit to a downtown branch of Qing-Feng Steamed Dumpling Shop and had his lunch there at noon on Saturday, after his visit to a heating supply company and nursing home in Beijing earlier that day.

Given no official media accompanied the president during his surprise visit to the eatery, all the photos and videos were taken by diners with their cellphones.
These screenshots show that on January 2, 2014, all search results for “Who is Behind the Four Seas Weibo Account That Publicized Xi Jinping Eating Baozi” (习近平包子背后的四海微传播是谁) had had disappeared.

On January 3, 2014, the state-sponsored China Daily published an article entitled “Xi Shows Common Touch.” According to the report:
Diners at the Qingfeng steamed bun restaurant will never forget the day when Chinese President Xi Jinping unexpectedly dropped in to dine at the restaurant. Since Xi's visit, business has been booming at all of the Qingfeng chain restaurants, and the 21-yuan ($3.46) combo meal Xi ordered, now called the "President Xi Jinping combo," is in high demand.
The report also included this graphic showing Weibo connecting Xi’s visit with cracking down on corruption.
Source: China Daily
 These screenshots show that on January 7, Sina Weibo posts containing images showing people protesting in front of the Baozi shop made famous by Xi were disappearing.

These screenshots were taken on January 15, and show that Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were censoring searches for "Xi Put On a Show" (习 作秀).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sina Weibo Censors Apology From Former Cultural Revolution Red Guard

On January 14, 2014, the state-sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “Iconic Red Guard Says Sorry.” Some excerpts:
The daughter of a late general, who led China's revolution, has made a public apology to her high school teachers for her deeds during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) amid a recent wave of reflections by the perpetrators of the decade-long movement.

Song Binbin is the daughter of Song Renqiong, a general in the People's Liberation Army during the time of China's founding.
. . . .
The school's deputy principal Bian Zhongyun was beaten to death on August 5, 1966, marking the first killing of a teacher during the chaotic Cultural Revolution.

On Sunday, Song and her fellow students came back to the school and apologized to the teachers who were attacked more than four decades ago.
. . . .
Sima Nan, a conservative-leaning scholar, told the Global Times that Song's apology should be respected if it was made by her own consciousness and could only be made on her own behalf.

"Given the ideological conflicts in  society, I have to speculate that there may be some forces trying to use the second generation of revolutionary families' apologies to sway public opinion on the Cultural Revolution," Sima said.
The same day the Global Times also published an editorial entitled “Red Guard Apology Triggers Wide Reflection.” Some excerpt from the English language version:
China is at the stage of rapid transformation in all spheres including ideology. Diversified opinions have reinvigorated people's minds, but at the same time, allowed confusion.
. . . .
[S]ome malicious actions, such as defaming, rumor-mongering and personal attacks, which were notoriously popular in the period of Cultural Revolution, were brought back to life in the context of the free Internet. Some people are concerned that China might re-walk that disastrous road, while some believe these actions are all for democracy, which can be achieved even at the cost of law and order.

[D]isregard the fact that the whole nation has defined the Revolution as what it should be, a handful of people demand the CPC and central government apologize for the Revolution.

In fact, the nationwide introspection of the 1980s is more constructive than a so-called apology.
Here is an excerpt from the Chinese language version of the editorial entitled “The Cultural Revolution Could Not be Repeated, Though Its Winds are Difficult Quiet” (文革不可能重演,其风却不易肃清) that was omitted from the English language version:
The Cultural Revolution was certainly repugnant, but it would seem that the way some things were done at that time was not quite so repugnant as the way they were done in the 80's, including some that are being covertly worshipped, and given new labels . . . .
文革挺臭的,但当时的一些做法似乎不像上世纪80年代那样臭了,其中有些还受到变相推崇,贴上新的标签 . . . .
These screenshots show that on January 14, Sina Weibo began censoring search results for the phrase “Cultural Revolution Red Guard Leader Song Binbin” (文革红卫兵领袖宋彬彬).

These screenshots were taken on January 14, and show that Baidu had banned users from establishing forums on its PostBar (Tieba 贴吧) product to discuss “Cultural Revolution” and “Red Guards.”

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Year in Review: A Chronicle of China's Social Media Crackdown

In August 2013, President Xi Jinping issued a call for for less negative speech online. By October, after a propaganda campaign against popular online personalities, a new law, and dozens of detentions, the People's Daily reported that their surveys showed that there was less negative speech online.

Below is a chronology of the events that lead the People's Daily to declare the "end of era" for public participation in online discourse in China.

April 10: Future SCIO Deputy Director Calls on Government to “Silence Those Who Need Silencing”

Red Flag Journal, a magazine published by the Communist Party's flagship magazine Seeking Truth, publishes an article entitled "Target the Two Venues of Public Discourse, Solidify the Positive Energy of Society." The article was authored by Ren Xianliang who, at the time of publication was acting vice-minister of Shaanxi province’s propaganda department. Several months following the publication he would be appointed deputy director of the State Council Information Office. Some excerpts:
The abrupt rise of the Internet and other new media, especially the appearance of blogs and weibos and other forms of personal media, has in fact undermined policies that banned private media and prohibited cross-border oversight. Certain VIP weibo users frequently have tens, if not hundreds, of thousands, even millions, of followers, and go so far as to launch micro-magazines and micro-television channels.
. . . .
When it comes to control, it is necessary to boldly confront all obstacles, even those powerful media outlets, famous web sites, bloggers, and micro-bloggers. Warn those who need warning, ban those who need banning, and silence those who need silencing. As soon as there is any violation of law, rules, or discipline, resolutely handle it in accordance with the law, and show no mercy. It is only by using the law to manage new media formats, including the Internet, in the same manner as is done with real-world society, that we can turn it to our own ends and not be subject to external threats.
. . . .
Online "opinion leaders" represent the aspirations of a sizable portion of the crowd. They are the focus of much public attention, and hold great sway over users' moods and online opinion. Administrative agencies must adopt many different methods to transform, foster, and cultivate "opinion leaders" who understand, approve of, and praise the general and specific policies of the Party and the government, and use them to influence Internet users and guide public opinion.
The following day, the state-sponsored Southern Metropolitan Daily drew attention to Ren's piece by publishing an article entitled "Shaanxi Official: Some Online Discourse is Being Manipulated, When It Comes to the Big V's On Weibo, Silence Those Who Need Silencing" (陕西官员:一些网络舆论被操纵 微博大V该关就关). These screenshots show that the article, originally available here - - was quickly deleted.

These screenshots were taken on April 12, and show that Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were censoring searches for "Ren Xianliang."

These screenshots were taken on April 13, and show that Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were censoring searches for "Silence Those Who Need Silencing."


August 10: Online Opinion Leaders Agree on “Seven Bottom Lines”

Well-known online personalities gather at CCTV's headquarters in Beijing and reach an agreement that are seven bottom lines that they would observe when posting on social media:
  1. Legal
  2. Socialist System
  3. National Interest
  4. Citizens' Legal Rights and Interests
  5. Social Order
  6. Moral
  7. Factual
Although "National Interest" was listed third, China's state run media reported:
The national interest is to be placed above all others, because without the nation we have nothing. That is the way of the physical world, and so it is even more so in the online world. We must forge an online patriotic culture, with the soul of online culture resting on the national interest.”

August 16: Flagship Party Magazine Says China Cannot Survive Losing Control Over Public Opinion

On August 16, 2013, the Chinese Communist Party's flagship magazine, Seeking Truth, publishes an editorial entitled "Take Up the Cause of Insisting on a Marxist Approach to News." Some excerpts:
At its current stage, China could not endure the consequences of losing control over public opinion. . . . The overall quality of government agency administration and the ranks of Party officials is not high enough, and they are finding it very difficult to adapt to the challenges posted by excessively open public opinion. Excessively critical public opinion will damage popular trust in government and jeopardize government administration.

August 19: Xi Jinping Says Bad Online Opinion Leaders Must Be Restrained

Xi Jinping gives a speech to the National Propaganda and Ideology Work Conference. Some excerpts:
No newspaper, no magazine, no public forum, no meeting room, no television, no movie, no stage shall provide space for any malicious speech that would attack the Party's leaders, attack the socialist system, distort Party or national history, or spread rumors to create trouble. No newspaper, no magazine, no mobile video, no cell phone media, no SMS, no WeChat, no blog, no podcast, no microblog, no online forum, no new media of any sort shall provide such speech with any convenience. . . . Those who would spread rumors to cause trouble must be punished in accordance with the law . . . .
A little less negative speech on the Internet can only help, and not hurt, China's social development and social stability, and the peace and contentment of its people. . . .
With respect to those online opinion leaders, we must strengthen our education and guidance. The good ones should be encouraged. The bad ones should be restrained.
These screenshots were taken on November 7, and shows that Sina Weibo was censoring searches for "Xi Jinping August 19 Speech," but not for "Xi Jinping August 19."


August 19: The Detentions Begin

Beijing police detain Qin Zhihui (known online as Qin Huohuo) and Yang Xiuyu (known online as Lier Chaisi) on suspicion of provoking quarrels and running an illegal business.

August 20: A Strike Hard Campaign is Launched

According to China's state run media, law enforcement agencies around the country "pull back the curtain" on a nationwide campaign to attack organized online rumor mongering.

August 21: A Propaganda Campaign is Launched

Two of Beijing's major local newspapers, the Beijing News and the Beijing Times, carry front page headlines and multi-page articles outlining the allegations against Qin Huohuo and Yang Xiuyu. Allegations against Qin published in China's state run media included:
  • In July 2011, Qin posted on Sina Weibo that the Chinese government had paid 200 million yuan (US$32.7 million) in compensation to a foreign passenger after two trains collided in Wenzhou, Zhejiang. The police claimed “The micro blog was forwarded about 12,000 times within two hours, creating public anger at the government.”
  • In April 2013, Qin posted on Sina Weibo that the Communist Party's poster-boy Lei Feng, “bought himself an entirely new top-grade wardrobe, including an extra jacket, wollen pants, and black leather shoes. The total price of the jacket, wollen pants, and black leather shoes was about 90 yuan. But at that time Lei Feng's monthly salary was only 6 yuan."
The company operated by Qin and Yang, Erma Interactive Sales Strategies Limited, is accused of astroturfing and spreading thousands of rumors. The three "illustrative cases" provided in China's state run media to illustrate the duo's guilt dated from 2011 and 2012.
The Beijing Times and Beijing News on Qin Huohuo's Detention

August 23: Detentions in Beijing, Chongqing, Zhejiang, and Anhui

Beijing police travel to Chongqing and detain journalist Liu Hu a week after he reposted a a post blowing the whistle on a government official. The detention notice said he was suspected of having committed the offense of “provoking quarrels.”

Police detain a Mr. Ma after a traffic accident occurred in Shangyu, Zhejiang because he posted posted on a local forum that "nine people died.” According to official figures there were only seven fatalities. The police said that "within 20 minutes 454 people viewed it and it was reposted 15 times,” and on that basis subjected him to five days of administrative detention for "fabricating facts and disrupting public order.”

Police detain a 17 year old Anhui student surnamed Wu three days after he posted on Baidu’s PostBar (Tieba 贴吧) forum that a farmer caught three children stealing watermelon. He tied them to a tree and went off to play majiang. Upon returning he discovered the children were all dead, after which the farmer committed suicide. The post was commented on hundreds of times and “created something of a stir.” The police therefore “criticized and educated” Wu, who subsequently made another post on the forum to clear up the matter.

According to an August 29 Xinhua report:
Police in Beijing have captured 27 people after they were found to have been involved in prostitution, including Chinese-American Xue Charles Bi-Chuen, according to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.

Xue, 60, an investor and prolific microblogger with more than 12 million followers, was arrested in the Chaoyang District of Beijing last Friday, police said.

Xue was accused of group licentiousness for participating in group sex parties, according to police, adding that among the detainees nine were male and 18 were female, who were captured in late August.

Investigation found Xue, whose Chinese name was "Xue Biqun" and was verified as "Xue Manzi" in Sina Weibo, China's most popular Twitter-like service, came to China in 2007 and had engaged in licentious activities with more than ten female sex workers since May this year.
A Global Times editorial framed the issues relating to Xue this way:
On Weibo, [Xue Manzi] is eager to show an image of righteousness by calling for the Western political system to be promoted in China and voicing support for many mass incidents. But his involvement in soliciting prostitutes, to the surprise of many, exposes his personal virtue.
. . . .
Some celebrity microbloggers wonder why it is so "troublesome" for them to have "freedom of speech." We hope this is just naivety that will ultimately fade away as they learn to deal with their discourse power in a more responsible and sincere way.

August 25: A Detention in Shanghai

Police in Shanghai detain Fu Xuesheng, president of Shanghai LabInfo Technologies Ltd, on allegations that he spread false rumors that:
  • a female executive at State-owned oil giant Sinopec accepted sexual favors as a bribe from a US supplier, and that the supplier subsequently blackmailed her;
  • a police chief accepted more than 2 billion yuan ($327 million) in bribes and murdered an entrepreneur.
Police claimed that Fu “rented an office in the Lujiazui area in Shanghai and surfed foreign websites there. He initially released the false information on overseas forums and then forwarded it to domestic ones.”

August 26: Detentions and Fines in Henan, Hebei, and Zhejiang

Police in Jili, Henan fine a Mr. Zhang 500 yuan for posting on Baidu's PostBar (Tieba) that "It is said that a few days ago in Beichen a woman was dissected and her organs were taken away." According to the police, this post caused a "mass panic."

Police in Qinghe, Hebei, detain a Mr. Zhao for posting on Baidu’s PostBar (Tieba) that "I heard that a murder took place in Louzhuang, does anyone know what actually happened?" According to the police, this post caused a “mass panic.”

An unnamed Internet user posts on Sina Weibo that 16 people died in a car accident in Dangshan, Zhejiang. Police subsequently announce on their Weibo that they had arrested him and sentenced him to 5 days administrative detention on the grounds that the actual figure was 10 dead and 5 wounded.

August 27: A Detention in Liaoning

Police in Liaoning arrested a Mr. Zhang and subjected him to administrative detention for posting on Sina Weibo that “I’m going to blow up the Pingdu police station.” According to the police, this post caused a “mass panic.”

August 29: Detentions in Guangzhou and Liaoning

Police in Yuexiu, Guangzhou subject an Internet user to seven days of administrative detention for posting the following:
The five heroes of Langya Mountain were in fact some 8th Army irregulars, and after fleeing to Langya Mountain they used their guns to suppress local villagers, with the result that the local villagers resented them. Afterwards the villagers told the Japanese army of the five's whereabouts, which led the five to flee down a blind alley.
Police in Liaoning detain an Internet user posting under the name “Geilixiaowei” for posting that 1,000 had died and an unknown number were missing following floods. The police said this caused a “malicious social influence.”

Liaoning police also claim that, over the preceding three days, they had investigated 25 cases of Internet rumors, leading to 4 arrests and 20 fines.

August 30: A Detention in Hebei

Police in Shidu, Hebei detain a Mr. Li for posting “Two people have died from the heat in Yun county.” They fine him 200 yuan.

September 2: State Media Cautions Against Abusive Implementation of the Anti-Rumor Campaign

Xinhua publishes an editorial entitled "We Must Guard Against the Crackdown on 'Online Rumor's Going Off the Rails.'" Some excerpts:
It is true that it is somewhat inappropriate for Internet users failing to undertake verification and publish inaccurate casualty figures for a traffic accident. Nevertheless, if there is no evidence indicating that there was malicious intent, then it may not rise to the level of "intentionally fabricating and spreading rumors."
. . . .
The original intent of attacking online rumors is good, but we cannot label as rumor every voice we hear that we don't like. We must find a balance between attacking online rumors and protecting the public's rights to know, participate, express, and oversee. We must rely strictly on facts, take the law as our standard, and avoid acting arbitrarily.

Everyone applauds how attacking Internet rumors is conducive to cleansing online spaces and channeling positive energy. But at the same time, we must guard against abusive and deviant implementation in a few places. The path to resolution must first and foremost be built on comprehensive laws and regulations in the relevant areas. And law enforcement in particular must take the lead in abiding by the law. Only then can we build a healthy online environment.

September 5: Newspaper Questions Anti-Rumor Campaign, Gets Censored

The state sponsored Southern Weekend publishes an article entitled "Will Attacking Rumors With the Long Arm of the Law Lead to a World Without Rumors?" An excerpt:
Legal scholars are concerned that, by extending the crime of provoking and quarreling to online spaces we run the risk of making it a "catchall crime," which will create new problems, in particular how to prevent certain leading cadres from utilizing this to exact revenge on whistleblowers where their speech relates to government officials.
As these screenshots show, it was deleted on September 6.


September 6: State Media Defends the Anti-Rumor Campaign

Global Times publishes an op-ed entitled "Is Chinese Public Opinion Really Constricting?" Some excerpts:
Given today's Internet environment, any move toward social governance will almost inevitably be met with debate and consternation. There is nothing at all odd about this. But the fact is that this does not in any way mean that the development of online opinion in China is being subjected to restrictions. On the contrary, this is a step toward "normalization" of online opinion in China, and it is laying the foundation for a flourishing and dynamic Internet for China.
. . . .
First, there is a lack of control over online rumors and malicious behavior which has allowed evildoers to take over, and they are increasingly running rampant. Second, many rumor mongers are using the virtual influence of astroturfers to seize prestige and power, and are employing Big V's reposts to exert influence, building their rants and ulterior motives on a foundation of certain irrational emotional currents in our society, and go on to wantonly attack those with whom they disagree, using rumors and lies to attack others and society. Rumor mongers are generally anonymous, and do not bear any responsibility. Those who repost what they say also avoid responsibility.

September 9: Government Specifies Criminal Penalties for Defamatory Posts Viewed More Than 5,000 Times

The Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate publish their “Explanations Regarding Certain Issues Relating to the Application of Laws When Handling Defamation and Other Criminal Cases Involving Information Networks.” The Explanations, which had been passed on September 2 and which would go into effect on September 10, include a provision stating that any online post containing defamatory information would be considered a “serious offense” under the Criminal Law if it received more than 5,000 views or was reposted more than 500 times.

September 13: Wang Gongquan Detained

Police in Beijing detain venture capitalist Wang Gongquan.

These screenshots show that Baidu's "Dinghui Investments Wang Gongquan" PostBar (Tieba) forum was operating at least as recently as May, 2013, but that users searching for that forum on September 14 are told: "Apologies, in accordance with relevant laws, rules, and regulations, this Bar cannot be opened."


September 15: Xue Manzi Apologizes on National Television For His Online Behavior

CCTV airs a jailhouse interview with Xue Manzi. During the interview Xue says “My irresponsibility in spreading information online was a vent of negative mood, and was a neglect of the social mainstream,” and "freedom of speech cannot override the law.” The China Daily noted: “His sober demeanor was different from the arrogance of two weeks ago when he was taken into detention.”

September 17: Middle School Student is Detained

Police in Gansu detain a 16 year-old surnamed Zhang at his middle school for "provoking trouble" after suggesting on Sina Weibo that an investigation by local police into a man's death was problematic, and claiming that man had been murdered when police had ruled his death a suicide. Authorities subsequently subjected him to seven days of administrative detention.

September 18: Anti-Corruption Crusader is Detained

Police order well-known Weibo personality "Boss Hua Lost the Monkey King's Golden Cudgel” to appear for questioning. Boss Hua gained notoriety for exposing local officials wearing luxury wristwatches.

These screenshots were taken on September 19, 2013, and show that both Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were censoring searches for "Boss Hua" (花总 Hua Zong).


September 29: China’s Web Sites Sign a Pledge

China's major web sites, including Baidu, Tencent, Sina, Qihoo, Phoenix, People's Daily, Xinhua, and the China Daily, sign a pledge entitled "Established a Green Internet and Carry Forward the Positive Energy of the Youth." In the Pledge the committed to "propagandize the strength and prosperity of the nation and promote the glorious China dream of its people," and hold the "Seven Bottom Lines."

October 11: People’s Daily Official Declares the Era of Big V’s is Over

The People’s Daily web site publishes an op-ed by Zhu Huaxin, director of the People’s Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit. Some excepts:
On the morning of September 10, the well-known Yunnan Internet user "Frontier Man" was arrested by police on suspicion of filing a false registered capital report. "Frontier Man" played an active role in the Elude the Cat and the Elementary School Sex-for-Sale Online Scandals. After the "Elude the Cat" incident in early 2009, the Yunnan Propaganda Department organized Internet users to investigate, and the curtain was raised on an era of "Online Questioning of the Government." Unlike those big city Big V's, "Frontier Man" did not engage in ideological pontification, and sought to find the truth underlying those scandals.

The detention of "Frontier Man" symbolizes the end of an era.

For the past several years, the watchwords of the online world were "online questioning of the government" and salvaging "lost voices." In order to change how government worked the standard operating procedure online was one of "surround" and criticize. Then "Government Affairs Weibos" emerged on the scene, and strove to respond to the "concerns of Internet users."

Beginning at the end of August, the online world has been written over with these keywords: rumor mongering, picking quarrels, exposing Big V's, imposing administrative punishments, crminally detaining. Government has moved from reactive to proactive, calling for the launch of an online" struggle for public opinion," daring to "unsheath swords," and firmly grasping the rights to "lead, manage, and speak out."
. . . .
Public power has begun exert its force, exerting itself with ferocity, allowing many leading cadres to recapture the excite of regaining "lost ground," while simultaneously catching unawares those Internet users who had grown accustomed to the "vomitorium," especially those  "opinion leaders" who had for several years held themselves in such high regard, posting on Weibo as if they were "reciting memorials to the Emperor on his throne."
. . . .
The force of Online Questioning of the Government must fit within the broader context of the state and social management system. Even if it has given rise to new broadcasting technologies, the Internet cannot become some kind of "island" divorced from from the continent of the State's society, culture, and politics. China's 591 million Internet users, in particular those Internet users who are intellectuals who often voice their views on public affairs, have had fortune smile on them in the form of the nation's informatization strategy. But the Chinese who first rose on the crest of this "wave" shouldn't develop any illusions about the state of nation and its administrative system, and mistakenly believe that China's weibos are England's Hyde Park.

The changes to the Internet since August have ruthlessly wrestled back to earth those Internet users who for many years were held aloft by the storm that was public discourse. Those who once believed they had built a Tower of Babylon have suddenly come to discover that we are still scaling the difficult slopes of modernization.
. . . .
While the methods have been somewhat crude, from a certain perspective, the mass exodus undertaken by the current affairs Big V's is not necessarily a forced compression of the "public discourse bubble.” A small number of Internet users are intellectuals who are prone to wallowing in romanticism, restlessness, and extremism. They need to consider how to push society towards a smooth transformation. Otherwise, it is very dangerous to attempt to force online opinion and government policies.

October 16: Political Cartoonist is Interrogated

Police summon political cartoonist Wang Limin (who publishes under the pen name “Perverse Pepper”) and interrogate him for 24 hours about a post he made on Sina Weibo. The post in question related to claims that an infant had died of starvation in Yuyao after a typhoon struck the city.


October 21: Five Arrests in Hunan

Police in Hunan arrest five men on charges of fabricating online rumors, blackmailing others, and provoking quarrels. Their victims included Communist Party cadres.

October 30: The Party Declares Victory

A report released by the Public Opinion Monitoring Center under the People's Daily and states that following the campaign launched in August, "the government and Party have suddenly come to dominate online spaces” and “the amount of critical posts and emotional language has dropped precipitously.” Specifically:
  • the number of microblogs posted by mainstream media and government agencies has surpassed those of "opinion leaders.”
  • the number of posts on Sina Weibo declined over 10 percent compared with the previous two months.
  • there has been a clear drop in the number of corruptions cases being reported through non-government operated web sites.
Zhu Huaxin, secretary-general of the People's Daily Online public opinion monitoring center stated:
The public opinion data shows that the Internet, the main battlefield of propaganda, is not lost. The Internet is manageable and controllable, and the Party and the government have taken the first step to take the initiative on this battlefield of public opinion.

November 13: Sina Reports It Has Shut Down Over 1,000 Weibo Accounts During the Anti-Rumor Campaign

Sina reports that, as part of its campaign to enforce the “Seven Bottom Lines,” it had shut down 1,030 Weibo accounts for publishing false information.