中央领导内幕 (Central leadership insider / zhōngyāng lǐngdǎo nèimù) is a general term for someone with inside info about the CCP, with the implication being they are revealing something secretive or scandalous.
中央领导内幕 is not blocked on Weibo.
In a break from our usual series of highlighting words blocked from searching on Weibo, for the next two days I’ll be looking more deeply at the keywords on chat messenger app LINE’s “bad words” list. For more about this series, see this introductory post.
月月鸟 (literally, “every month bird” / yuèyuèniǎo) is code for Li Peng (李鹏), the former Premier of China and second highest-ranking politician in the CCP during the 1990s. He promoted projects like the controversial Three Gorges Dam and was an ardent opponent of the economic liberalization programs supported by Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang, eventually helping to orchestrate Zhao’s downfall in 1989…
Why it is blocked: …a downfall brought about because of a significant event in 1989: the Tian’anmen Square protests. Li was a strong advocate for using force to end the protests, again opposing Zhao, who was more conciliatory toward the students. Li further bolstered his reputation among the protesters as their primary villain during a nationally televised broadcast meeting with student leaders, who demanded that the government retract the April 26 editorial, a document Li was very influential in drafting. Li openly scorned the students, interrupting them and flatly rejecting their demands. Eventually, he was able to build a case against Zhao, and on June 4, troops marched on the square, a decision which some citizens still curse him for to this day. A book of Li Peng’s supposed diary entries entitled The Critical Momentwas planned for release in 2010, but it was halted just before publication. In it, Li justifies many of his most vilified acts and emphasizes that it was a group decision to enter the square. Observers speculated it was an attempt by him to recover his legacy before he died and others suggested that Beijing forced the Hong Kong publisher of the book to stop because it reflected badly on the leaders then in power, including Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao.
月月鸟 are the three components of Li Peng’s given name, 鹏. Though 鹏 itself isn’t blocked on Weibo (his full name 李鹏 is blocked), I guess the censors assume that you must be up to no good if you’re using 月月鸟 as a sort of code to write about Li Peng, and thus those three characters which stand in for his name are blocked.
宪法法院 (constitutional court / xiànfǎ fǎyuàn) is the court charged with adjudicating cases that concern the constitution. In some countries, it is distinct from a supreme court, which is the highest court in a country and the court of last resort for non-constitutional cases. In the United States, the Supreme Court does both tasks. China’s Supreme People’s Court serves in the model of a supreme court and does not currently have the power of constitutional review.
Why it is blocked: The power of the courts is a controversial issue in China. The modern Chinese court system is often a less–than-independent entity and there is no separation of powers between the courts and the state to prevent the state from abusing its authority. In recent years under Xiao Yang, the president of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) from 1998-2008, a number of reforms held promise. In 2001, the Supreme People’s Court agreed to rule on a case and decided that a student, Qi Yuling, should be awarded damages after another student stole her identity and test scores to attend college. But what made the case more interesting was not just the decision, but the argument: the Court premised their ruling on the Chinese Constitution, arguing that according to the document, Qi had the right to an education, the first time the Court had asserted its ability to oversee the Constitution. As the case was decidedly non-political, legal scholars saw this as a gradual introduction of constitutional review into the Chinese legal system. However, those hopes were temporarily dashed after the Communist Party re-asserted its power over the courts and issued a doctrine known as the Three Supremes: “In their work, the grand judges and grand procurators shall always regard as supreme the party’s cause, the people’s interest and the constitution and laws.” It held that judges must consider political ramifications and social stability in addition to the law. In 2008, Wang Shengjun, who does not have a law background, was appointed as the new President of the Supreme People’s Court, and in 2009, the landmark Qi Yuling ruling was withdrawn, an indication that the SPC was stepping away from making constitutional judgments.
My records show the term has been blocked for over a year, and thus has been sensitive for some time. However, according to GreatFire.org, it was unblocked in November 2012, before becoming re-blocked some time in late-December—around the start of the Southern Weekend controversy.
Perhaps the block is coincidental, but depending on when exactly the block of 宪法法院 took place, one could make a credible case that it is related to the event.
宪政民主 (constitutional democracy / xiànzhèng mínzhǔ), closely related to liberal democracy, is generally classified as a government that holds free elections, has a separation of powers between different branches of government, and maintains respect for minority and majority rights, among other principles.
Why it is blocked: Today, China is not a constitutional democracy, though it has attempted to initiate certain reforms in recent years to perhaps move it in that direction–if future party leaders so choose.* Direct elections take place at certain local levels, and the country’s Supreme Court appeared to be moving towards becoming an autonomous body during the 2000s before its power was curtailed. However, on the whole, any discussion of political reform is strictly suppressed. For instance, when Premier Wen Jiabao made references in a number of 2010 speeches to China’s need to take up more democratic measures, his own remarks were censored by state media.
*Chrystia Freeland reminds us that countries like China and Russia have cleverly exploited their spoken desire for greater freedoms in order to justify their current more illiberal practices—essentially, declaring that they are on the right path but just need more time.
上海帮 (Shanghai Gang or Shanghai Clique / Shànghǎi bāng) is a nickname given to a group of high-level CCP politicians who were most prominent during the 1990s and early-2000s. These politicians usually had strong ties to then-president Jiang Zemin, who came to power as the mayor and party chief in Shanghai. Jiang packed the Politburo with his former subordinates, but since his leaving office in 2003, the Shanghai Gang’s influence has arguably waned.
Why it is blocked: 上海帮, like “Shanghai Gang” in English, has a decidedly pejorative connotation, implying underhanded dealings and cronyism. Peter McGregor’s The Party has a fantastic chapter on how the central government was able to rein in the group’s power by arresting and imprisoning one of Jiang’s most trusted allies, Chen Liangyu, on corruption charges. As the Communist Party essentially runs China, it can be helpful to think of groups like the Shanghai Gang and the Youth League faction (团派 / tuánpài—also blocked on Weibo) as China’s de facto form of political parties. These alliances are often based on personal connections as well as ideology. For a government which likes to present itself as unified on all fronts, writing about such political in-fighting is no doubt frowned upon. [Status]
Also of note: The CCP pulled out all the stops to smear Chen, including branding him as “corrupt and decadent.” Newspapers intimated that he had a taste for “entertaining young female television presenters,” and it later came out that he cavorted about with a mistress who was 15 years old. A thinly-veiled roman à clef entitled The Wrath of Heaven about Chen was released then quickly banned in 1997.
元老 (yuánlǎo) is a term for a veteran or old leader, but in the context of the Chinese Communist Party, it refers to the Eight Elders. These senior leaders, headed by Deng Xiaoping, held substantial power during the 1980s and 1990s. In the English-speaking world, these men are often sarcastically called The Eight Immortals.
Why it is blocked: Though the Eight Elders were not the heads of state and were not recognized as an official body in the Constitution, major decisions had to be run through them. During the June 4 demonstrations, it was the Elders who drove Politburo discussions which eventually led to the crackdown. A new wave of elders (including Jiang Zemin) has since replaced the original eight, but they do not wield the power that the 1980s and 90s body once did. [Status - 11/17/11: blocked; 2/5/12, 3/12/12: unblocked]
江泽民 (Jiang Zemin) is a former Chinese politician, who served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1989 to 2002 and as President of the People’s Republic of China from 1993 to 2003.
Why it is blocked: A number of leaders and politicians’ names are banned on Weibo, presumably to prevent insults and virtual paint splattering. Though Jiang has been out of power since 2005 (though he still attended NPC meetings up until 2008), rumors that he was dead pushed Weibo in July to censor all searches with the character 江. Fortunately, one is able to search for rivers again, but Jiang’s full name is still banned. [Status - 12/7/11, 2/5/12, 3/12/12: blocked]