PRC China Government's Censorship Examples

See: Censorship in China has spiked in recent days as the government scrambles to contain public anger over the forced evictions of migrant workers and claims of child abuse at a kindergarten in Beijing

For those of you in the West, governments deleting social media posts, removing articles and blocking searches is a very foreign concept. In China, this is how things are done.

As for our industry, this type of action should help you understand the mentality and tactics of Hikvision, a PRC government subsidiary, who simply cannot fathom that people would be allowed to publicly criticize them.

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More, new WSJ article: Jailed for a Text: China’s Censors Are Spying on Mobile Chat Groups

Key quotes include:

auto mechanic Yang Qingsong used an expletive in a WeChat post to question the intelligence of police for doing checks in the rain. Police detained Mr. Yang for five days, saying his post to a group with 241 people “created negative social effects,” according to an account of the incident the police posted on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

Software employed by WeChat appears to automatically scrub posts containing words on a blacklist, which is continually amended by human censors, according to Citizen Lab. The technology has now advanced to identify images deemed sensitive, which are then removed during transmission without the sender being alerted to the disruption.

After he called President Xi Jinping a “baozi”—a steamed dumpling—in one WeChat post, and Chairman Mao a “bandit” in another, Mr. Wang was arrested, court records say. A local court in April sentenced him to two years in prison, a term that was reduced to 22 months after a retrial last month.

Two take-aways:

  • Criticize China and face a serious risk of going to jail
  • Government-owned companies like Hikvision come from an environment, therefore, were criticism is simply not tolerated and can easily be stopped
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The sad thing is, some republicans think there would be nothing wrong with arresting anti trump citizens.......

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Whatever individual Americans think or hope, the thankful reality is that we have a well established, rule of law that prevents the government or government officials from arresting people who criticize the government.

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#TDS

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The Economist article: How China’s “sharp power” is muting criticism abroad:

Sharp power wraps all that up in something altogether more sinister. It seeks to penetrate and subvert politics, media and academia, surreptitiously promoting a positive image of the country, and misrepresenting and distorting information to suppress dissent and debate.

Hikvision's tactics with the security media are right out of the Chinese government's playbook.

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A major part of the Chinese government's censorship is blocking thousands of websites. One route around this is to use a VPN but China has ramped up blocking them as well. New article from Nikkei: China's war on VPNs creates havoc at foreign companies, quotes:

Other companies are having similar headaches. An electronics parts maker in Beijing has been blocked from a server in Japan, denying it access to customer data. A food maker in Shanghai has been cut off from the company intranet. A different service-industry company in Beijing can't get into the head office's information system, forcing it to rely on data stored locally. An autoparts maker in Hubei Province found out its email no longer reaches some recipients.

State-run telecoms such as China Telecom and China Unicom are pitching dedicated lines, touting higher transmission speeds that they say can make business more efficient. But there are obvious problems with this. Authorities can intercept communications or steal data from dedicated lines

Not only is this censorship, it helps undermine foreign competitors to Chinese companies.

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China government censorship continues to grow. Now WeChat (roughly the Facebook of China, where Facebook is banned), saying it is following recent Chinese government law, will be deleting accounts of those who "distort the party history and national history".

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New censorship

"China's ruling Communist Party on Sunday announced plans to abolish presidential term limits, which would allow President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely."

In the wake of that, China's move to abolish presidential term limits is more unpopular than the government thought — so it's turning to censorship

Another thing typical in China, incomprehensible in the West.

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An eye roll is causing a sensation inside of China and more censorship.

Don't criticize or cause the China Communist Party to lose face.

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The HBO website has been banned in China after a John Oliver episode last week:

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China is banning the new Winnie the Pooh movie because Winnie the Pooh is used in China to make fun of their Supreme Leader Xi Jinping, e.g.:

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China has banned ABC, the Australian national broadcasting company, below is the statement the PRC sent to ABC:

"China's internet is fully open. We welcome internet enterprises from all over the world to provide good information to the netizens of China."

"However, state cyber sovereignty rights shall be maintained towards some overseas websites violating China's laws and regulations, spreading rumours, pornographic information, gambling, violent terrorism and some other illegal harmful information which will endanger state security and damage national pride."

The Australian government has recently been critical of the PRC, including banning Huawei and ZTE from Australia's 5G network.

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China is now censoring business news, specifically negative reports about the Chinese economy, per the FT:

Chinese propaganda officials over the past few months have handed down instructions not to changshuai — bad mouth — the economy, according to a dozen journalists and editors at influential Chinese publications who spoke anonymously to the FT.

Topics such as consumers cutting back on spending, local governments struggling with debt repayments, lay-offs by bankrupt private companies and inefficiency at state-owned companies are increasingly off-limits, according to media staff. 

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Vancouver Sun: How a red dot kept Chinese-Canadian readers from getting the full story on Huawei:

Users of China’s hugely popular social-media app WeChat know it well: the big red dot.

The dot lets them know the news article they want to read is no longer available. It says the link is suspected of phishing or malware and has been blocked, but in reality the dot often appears when the Chinese government doesn’t want a story seen.

But immigrants from China who still use WeChat in Canada to get their news noticed the red dot appeared when things weren’t looking good for Meng. Arrested, in legal limbo and the subject of worldwide attention, it looked as though she could be spending the next few months in custody.

Amazing that the Chinese government censorship impacts people using the app in Canada.

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NY Times: Twitter Users in China Face Detention and Threats in New Beijing Crackdown:

One man spent 15 days in a detention center. The police threatened another’s family. A third was chained to a chair for eight hours of interrogation.

Their offense: posting on Twitter.

The Chinese police, in a sharp escalation of the country’s online censorship efforts, are questioning and detaining a growing number of Twitter users even though the social media platform is blocked in China and the vast majority of people in the country cannot see it.

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From the Chinese government's Global Times:

Beijing has shut down 110,000 social media accounts for spreading harmful information in line with China's enhanced efforts to "cleanse the country's cyber environment." 

Some 496,000 articles had also been removed as of December 18 after Beijing's cyberspace affairs office met with various social media platforms located in the city, according to a statement released on Tuesday on the office's WeChat account. 

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Fascinating new example, even 'private' Chinese companies are now censoring articles:

In the article, Shih is critical of the concentration camps:

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One particular fascinating / troubling aspect is that this is ban is global in nature, not just inside of China.

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Reuters: China's robot censors crank up as Tiananmen anniversary nears.

An interesting example of false positives with computer vision:

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

And how news reporting is suppressed:

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple... If it is not from state media first, it is not authorized, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

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An interesting new example of China censoring China netizens criticizing giving in to protestors demands:

After weeks of Chinese media describing the Hong Kong protesters as rioters and terrorists, mainland commentators reacted poorly to news that Lam had withdrawn the bill. Thousands of comments criticizing her decision have been deleted from Chinese social media, in line with the common practice of censoring dissent. Other commenters are already asking what could be a threatening question for the Chinese Communist Party: “If Hong Kongers can get what they want by protesting, why can’t we?”

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Ironically, Chinese editor complains about ‘over the top’ internet control:

The editor of the Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper made a rare departure from his loyalist views on Wednesday, complaining that the country’s strict internet control was “over the top” and made his job harder.

“As the National Day nears, it’s extremely difficult to visit foreign websites,” Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Global Times, wrote on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

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New: Chinese government cuts US Democratic Debate feed after Xinjiang is raised - CNN:

The screen went black just before 9 p.m. ET after PBS moderator Judy Woodruff asked Mayor Pete Buttigieg if the US should boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics over China's alleged mass detention of its Uyghur citizens.

The feed from the PBS/Politico debate in Los Angeles remained cut for about nine minutes while candidates were asked about a range of China issues, including the Hong Kong protests and military tensions in the South China Sea.

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Arsenal's Ozil deleted from Chinese computer game following criticism of Uighur treatment:

"The German player Ozil posted an extreme statement about China on social media," [Game maker] NetEase said on Chinese social media site Weibo. "The speech hurt the feelings of Chinese fans and violated the sports spirit of love and peace. We do not understand, accept or forgive this!"

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Perhaps the oddest case of China censorship yet: Chinese skiers want book removed from Meråker (Norway) library

Leaders of a delegation of skiers from China wanted a controversial Chinese book at the library in Meråker removed but the library has strongly rejected such a request....

if any of the Chinese skiers are caught with these books, they are afraid that they would risk being sent to labor camp or prison in China

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A strange confrontation between Swedish media and the PRC's Ambassador to Sweden:

China’s ambassador to Sweden summoned after he hit out at ‘smears’ in latest outburst against Beijing critics:

Gui Chongyou tells state broadcaster that media are like an ultra lightweight boxer trying to pick a fight with someone twice his size, who is then left with no choice but to respond

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New case: University of Minnesota student jailed in China for Twitter posts - Axios:

A University of Minnesota student has been arrested in China and sentenced to six months in prison for tweets he posted while in the United States

Chinese police are tracking down and silencing Twitter users who post content critical of the Chinese government — even from abroad.

Also, Twitter is banned in China.

Below is the image that the student is alleged to have posted:

Images of a cartoon villain

The upper right is "I don't see the sky falling" which was evidently viewed as mocking the CCP. The character shown is Lawrence Limburger, an "alien from the planet Plutark. The Plutarkians solely concentrate on conquering other planets, strip-mining them for all their natural resources and move on to the next planet."

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Interesting new example:

China Censors ‘Nomadland’ Director Chloe Zhao’s Oscar Win: Ms. Zhao is first Chinese woman to win best director, yet search engines erased the news

Two state media reporters told the Journal they had received orders from China’s propaganda ministry not to report on her victory, despite what they described as her status as a Chinese national, because of “previous public opinion.”...

Ms. Zhao experienced a Chinese social-media assault of her own earlier this year after her win at the Golden Globes in March. Initially jubilant about her success on the world stage, Chinese social-media sentiment turned bitter after users circulated a 2013 interview with Filmmaker magazine in which Ms. Zhao made a reference to China, calling it a place she had grown up in “where there are lies everywhere.”

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An interesting example of censorship: SCMP: Why China’s youth are ‘lying flat’ in protest of their bleak economic prospects:

Young Chinese fed up with gruelling work hours, conspicuous consumption and skyrocketing house prices are protesting by doing the bare minimum

The movement’s roots can be traced back to an obscure internet post called “lying flat is justice”

Although the original post has been scrubbed from the internet by censors, copies have spread quickly online, sparking lively discussion and videos that have garnered millions of views each.

In recent weeks, the authorities have unleashed celebrities and state-run media to attack the movement. Social media chat groups have been blocked for talking about how to participate. [emphasis added]

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Lying flat makes the NY Times, with another anecdote of a person's music video being censored:

Mr. Zhang, a musician based in Wuhan, had quit his job in advertising five years ago to pursue his music, and the idea of lying flat resonated with him. He called his song “Tangping Is the Right Way.”

Mr. Zhang uploaded the song to his social media platforms on June 3, and within a day censors had deleted it from three websites. He was furious.

“Nowadays, only running forward is allowed, but not lying down,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to me that they deleted this song.”

Later, he uploaded it to YouTube, which China blocks:

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Fascinating censor case in new WSJ article - China’s Push to Purge Organized Crime Casts Shadow Over Private Businesses:

“It’s too bitter and too tough being a Chinese private entrepreneur,” wrote the daughter, Zhang Jianhang, saying a government takeover would ensure the company’s employees and partners “no longer live in fear.”

The letter caused a stir on Chinese social media. “The survival of private enterprises is becoming increasingly difficult,” Huang Yingsheng, a former judge unconnected to the case, wrote in an online post that has since been blocked by censors. “I hope that the current situation, in which ‘entrepreneurs are either in jail or on their way to jail,’ can soon change!” [emphasis added]

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Newest and one of the most bizarre examples of censorship, this pop music video of a dancing pink bear has been banned:

PRC state media The Global Times wrote an article condemning it, explaining that:

In the music video of "Fragile," a panda figure keeps dancing in the background and the whole set is pink-colored. These are symbols considered to be related to China and targeted at the "Little Pink," a term used by the media to refer to young people who are fired up with patriotic zeal and try to guard China against any criticism online. At the beginning of the video, a caption reads, "Please be cautious if you are fragile pink."

Many other offensive elements are found in the lyrics and the video. The singers mention the Chinese people's love for "dog, cats, bats and civets" as the clip shows the panda cooking a pot of bat soup. The singers also referred to "forced labor and detention camps in Xinjiang," something that has been repeatedly refuted by local citizens.

The end of The Global Times article reads like the Onion:

Although Namewee's management company has since responded that the song "just wants to express love for small animals," netizens reject this because of the sophistication of the messages.

The CPC censoring pop songs and dancing pink bears? This does not evoke strength.

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NBA Celtics game pulled in the PRC after a Celtics player calls to Free Tibet while wearing a Dalai Lama shirt:

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It's fascinating to see how broadly the PRC will go to censor things. How this is a tenable long-term strategy is beyond me.

I don't know about long-term, but the NBA has caved in before and apologized to the PRC after players criticized the PRC government. There's a lot of viewership (money) at risk if the PRC doesn't allow the games to be shown.

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We'll see what the NBA does here.

The risk of the PRC strategy is that if they do it too often and to too many people, they risk causing more of a backlash. And the PRC's popularity has declined significantly recently, e.g. per Gallup:

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To your point, though, the PRC's most effective tactic is to threaten to cost companies money.

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Enes Kanter tweets again, "Close down the SLAVE labor camps and free the UYGHUR people!":

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And again:

Per SCMP:

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has not shown any NBA games so far in the 2021-22 season, which tipped off last week.

The Celtics’ page on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, has been flooded with posts demanding Kanter be punished, be made to issue an apology and be banned from the NBA.

Fascinating to see Kanter escalate this, curious to see what the PRC does further to the NBA. Can the PRC overpower Kanter by threatening further harm to the NBA?

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China's Peng Shuai Makes #MeToo Claim Against Zhang Gaoli - The New York Times

Ms. Peng made the allegation in a post on Tuesday night on her verified account on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. In it, she described an assault that began an on-and-off consensual relationship with Zhang Gaoli, who from 2012 to 2017 served on the party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the top ruling body in China.

The post was removed within minutes, but the allegations swirled through the country’s heavily controlled internet, fueled by the fame of the accuser and the accused. That kept the censors inside China’s Great Firewall scrambling.

Searches of her name and even the word “tennis” appeared to be blocked, reflecting the extraordinary sensitivity within China of discussing misconduct by party leaders.

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This is an extremely bizarre and bullying example of censorship, PRC police contacted a PRC citizen outside of the PRC, getting the woman's dad on the phone, threatening her about a Twitter parody account they claim she operates:

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From a posting of a Tsinghua Law Professor talking about the problem in the PRC of punishing those who bring bad news, of course ironically now censored:

When I was a student, I read the story of the messenger of Khorezm in Wang Xiaobo‘s book and found it incredible. How could there be such an institutional arrangement? Any messenger bringing good news to the king got promoted while those bringing bad news to the king got fed to the tigers. Would the bad news disappear because the messenger did not deliver it? However, such fables repeatedly play out in reality.

Under the system of social governance we have today, regardless of what level we are talking about, what matters is often not the problem, but whether that problem has drawn the attention of public opinion. Thus, instead of solving the problem, only the person who raised the problem is “solved”. This becomes the usual tactic in governance. Treating any influential event simply as an opinion issue leads to not only failure to resolve problems but also to growing problems. What started out as a trivial matter ended up being a matter of great importance.

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Fascinating new example based on this recent Olympian post:

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Eileen Gu said VPN is free in China. Her message was blocked. - Protocol

“Literally, I’m not ‘anyone.’ Literally, it’s illegal for me to use a VPN. Literally, it’s not fxxking free at all,” one Weibo user railed.

In recent years, Chinese authorities have blocked many VPN services, punished individual Chinese citizens who used VPNs to circumvent the Great Firewall and criminalized some for their speech made outside of China’s internet. The government in November also introduced a set of draft rules seeking to ban providers of tools, such as VPNs, that can help web users bypass state controls on inbound information.

Ironically, the screenshot of Gu defending China's internet freedom was censored on Weibo on Tuesday after being shared 3,000 times. The original Weibo post still exists, but the screenshot of her VPN comment has turned blank, causing mockery to go even further. “What is there to brag about a country where [that screenshot] can’t see the light of day?” another Weibo user asked.

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SCMP: China’s censors scrub multiple scenes of lesbian character in US sitcom Friends, sparking outrage among fans on mainland

Friends censored” immediately became the No 1 trending topic on microblogging platform Weibo on Friday. The hashtag, however, was apparently also censored, as search of the topic hashtag on Weibo yielded no results early on Saturday.

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This is odd...

At the Olympics, the Lovable Panda Mascot Can Smile and Wave. But Speak? - WSJ

Bing Dwen Dwen, a glassy-eyed, ever-smiling panda clad in a transparent coating of ice that resembles a space suit, has emerged as the surprise breakout star of Beijing 2022...

There was nothing childlike when Bing Dwen Dwen spoke, to the nation’s dismay. Instead, it was the voice of a middle-aged man, sounding a lot like an earnest uncle, with the distinct inflection of natives of northeastern China, the country’s barren rust belt region bordering the Russian Far East....

A few hours later, China’s censors sprang into action and removed the hashtag “Bing Dwen Dwen has spoken” from the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo. The controversial clip was also quickly pulled from China’s internet, with only fragments of it still floating through cyberspace by Saturday.

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NY Times: American Self-censorship, U.S. institutions are increasingly silencing themselves to win access to China.

The consequences are asymmetrical. Chinese movies proudly showcase their country’s values while American movies remain silent about China — skewing the messages people hear not just in the U.S. and China but across the globe.

American movies can even give the impression that China is better. In the 2014 movie “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” U.S. officials were portrayed “in unflattering tones,” according to PEN America. The Chinese characters in the film, which was made with the Chinese government’s support, were more often selfless and heroic. Variety called the movie “a splendidly patriotic film, if you happen to be Chinese.”

I disagree about describing this as "increasingly" as the article's examples show, this has been going on for years and is likely to be decreasing going forward as awareness of the PRC's problems become more widely known amongst the general public.

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Complaints about lockdown are being censored:

After one official newspaper, Guangming Daily, published a commentary about the government’s persistence in pursuing its “zero-Covid” policy, which has led to harsh and unpredictable lockdowns, users on the social media platform Weibo posted nearly 10,000 comments, with the vast majority urging the government to end the strategy. “Please read these comments. Please look at the lives of ordinary people,” wrote a user called Diqiuren1990. All the comments disappeared the next day after the commenting function was disabled.

And:

a viral video with the headline “The demise of China’s glory and dream” lamented the disastrous impact of the government’s crackdowns on the private sector. It was liked by many of the country’s top investors, scholars and entrepreneurs, including a co-founder of Tencent, China’s biggest internet company, who had left the company. The video has been deleted.

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Censorship example from WSJ reporter commenting on a PRC publication being censored:

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From the President of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China:

A cat-and-mouse game is going on in social media, censors almost can’t keep up with deleting everything. But it is very difficult to determine how the population really thinks, because the censors mercilessly clear everything. I can say, however, that people are genuinely afraid of the virus. The authorities do not inform that the Omicron variant is milder, they do not inform that other countries have learned to live with the virus. The authorities have spent a year bad-mouthing Western mRNA vaccines, with the result that people in China don’t trust the vaccination. That’s the problem: The political leadership can’t admit, so close to the Party Congress, that there is another way in dealing with Covid. They can’t admit that people in Europe can fly on vacation again and live largely a normal life. And they can’t admit that it would make sense to use mRNA vaccines in addition to the Chinese vaccines.

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The World Tries to Move Beyond Covid. China May Stand in the Way. - The New York Times

The head of the World Health Organization, whose recommendations China once held up as a model, was silenced this week when he called on the country to rethink its strategy.

Photographs and references to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W.H.O., were promptly scrubbed from the Chinese internet after the statement. The foreign ministry responded by calling Mr. Tedros’s remarks “irresponsible,” and accusing the W.H.O. of not having a “proper understanding of the facts.”

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Chinese censors go after 'last generation' references on social media platforms — Radio Free Asia

Censors backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have deleted references to a viral video that spawned the "last generation" meme, which emerged as a form of protest over ongoing lockdowns, mass incarcerations and compulsory testing under its zero-COVID policy.

In the video, PPE-clad police officials turn up outside someone's apartment and tries to force them to go to an isolation camp even though he had recently tested negative for coronovirus.

"We're negative. You have no right to take us away," the man says, before a police officer steps forward wagging a finger and says: "You know that we will punish you, right? And when that happens, it will have a bad effect on your family for three generations."

"Sorry. We're the last generation," the man replies in the video

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