Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Extent of censorship in China

How far do you have to go to censor people's thinking?

From 'rice bunny' to 'back up the car': China's year of censorship
China stepped up its campaign in 2018 to control what news and information its citizens can see.

While censors continued heavy handed control for any content deemed dangerous for social stability, including Peppa Pig videos and the letter “n”, regulators also deployed more sophisticated methods… to curate and shape what Chinese residents consume.

Authorities have been forcing activists on Twitter to delete their accounts and shutting down the social media accounts of university professors. Apolitical content is coming under more scrutiny. In October, almost 10,000 social media accounts for outlets publishing entertainment and celebrity news were closed.

The country’s largest internet companies have also stepped up self-censorship…

“WeChat group takedowns and news item deletions are happening with greater regularity across a shifting slate of topics,” said Rui Zhong, a programme assistant at the Kissinger Institute on China. These were some of the banned phrases this year:

At the March annual meeting of China’s national legislature, lawmakers voted almost unanimously to abolish term limits for the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, allowing him to stay in power indefinitely.

In the leadup to the meeting and afterwards, phrases like “amend the constitution”, “I don’t agree”, “proclaiming oneself emperor” and the letter “n” were censored…

In September, Chinese economist Wu Xiaoping released a controversial commentary arguing that the utility of the country’s private sector had been exhausted and such companies should now step aside.

Commentators quickly criticised Wu’s proposal as “driving history backwards” to a time of a command economy. As a result, the term “back up the car” was also censored.

In January, a woman named Luo Xixi published allegations against a professor who forced himself on her when she was a student 12 years ago. Inspired by her account and the subsequent firing of the professor, other women began posting under the hashtag #MeToo or in Chinese version, woyeshi #我也是 .

When that phrase was censored, internet users began using a homonym mitu #米兔 or “rice bunny’. That too was blocked…

In November, officials in Quanggang in the southern Fujian province reported a spillage of C9, a crude oil that is toxic to humans, off the coast of Fujian.

Local residents posted photos and accounts online of residents being sent to the hospital, arguing that the leak was more serious than officials claimed. Internet searches for “Xiamen Quangong carbon leakage” were blocked and video and posts related to the spill were deleted…

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