Blocked on Weibo: What Gets Suppressed on China’s Version of Twitter (and Why)

Blocked on Weibo: What Gets Suppressed on China’s Version of Twitter (and Why)

Jason Q. Ng

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 159558871X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Though often described with foreboding buzzwords such as "The Great Firewall" and the "censorship regime," Internet regulation in China is rarely either obvious or straightforward. This was the inspiration for China specialist Jason Q. Ng to write an innovative computer script that would make it possible to deduce just which terms are suppressed on China’s most important social media site, Sina Weibo. The remarkable and groundbreaking result is Blocked on Weibo, which began as a highly praised blog and has been expanded here to list over 150 forbidden keywords, as well as offer possible explanations why the Chinese government would find these terms sensitive.

As Ng explains, Weibo (roughly the equivalent of Twitter), with over 500 million registered accounts, censors hundreds of words and phrases, ranging from fairly obvious terms, including "tank" (a reference to the "Tank Man" who stared down the Chinese army in Tiananmen Square) and the names of top government officials (if they can’t be found online, they can't be criticized), to deeply obscure references, including "hairy bacon" (a coded insult referring to Mao’s embalmed body).

With dozens of phrases that could get a Chinese Internet user invited to the local police station "for a cup of tea" (a euphemism for being detained by the authorities), Blocked on Weibo offers an invaluable guide to sensitive topics in modern-day China as well as a fascinating tour of recent Chinese history.





















figure, he isn’t associated with the Shanghai faction, and if anything, he’s more aligned with the Youth League, as he has supported Hu’s policies over the years and was himself a Youth League member. Since his father was an important Communist politician, Li is also considered to be part of the Crown Prince Party (see page 18), another loose collective that includes people ranging from Bo Xilai to Xi Jinping. 14. Stephen Vines, “Time for the Yellow Bird of Hong Kong to Fly. Exclusive: Activists

other legal reasons.45 While one can argue about whether these sorts of controls in America and Europe constitute censorship or merely a lack of total privacy, the consensus is that China’s Internet-monitoring policies are much more severe—and sometimes have harsh, real-life consequences for Chinese citizens (see criminalization of speech, page 54). In 2004, the journalist Shi Tao leaked a government e-mail to a New York organization. Authorities traced the leak to a Yahoo! e-mail account, and

“protected” from online criticism. Most of the Politburo members are blocked, and all of the Standing Committee members were blocked as of October 2012. This changed markedly, however, after the Party Congress in November 2012, with many Politburo members being unblocked.15 Liu Yandong is currently the highest-ranking female and one of only two women in the current twenty-five-member Politburo. The CCP has made efforts to recruit more women into the party, even instituting certain quotas for

it much too simply. For more on China’s relationship with Tibet, try Melvyn C. Goldstein’s The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997). 20. Terry Gangcuangco, “Cobalt-60 Will Now Be Produced by China,” Asian Power, January 22, 2009, 21. Joel Martinsen, “Cobalt-60 Front Page Story Removed from Southern Metropolis Daily,” Danwei, December 15, 2009,

Party Congress meeting in 2012. He has also been instrumental in the selection of future generations of Party leaders (see Retired Emperor, page 16). After Jiang did not attend the celebration of the ninetieth anniversary of the Communist Party in June 2011, rumors began to circulate that he might be dead. Things reached a peak on July 5 when Weibo decided to try and quash the rumors by censoring all searches with the character , which is the Chinese word for river as well as Jiang’s surname (see

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