万鄂湘亚视 (Wan Exiang, Asia Television / Wàn Èxiāng Yàshì) refers to a reported visit that law professor and a vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court Wan Exiang made to an Asia Television office in Hong Kong. Hong Kong media photographed the unofficial, embroiled* head of ATV Wang Zheng greeting Wan and reported that Wang wined and dined his mainland friend. Furthermore, Wang supposedly ordered a number of female Miss Asia beauty pageant contestants—ATV broadcasts the annual Miss Asia pageant—to accompany them to dinner and entertain them. Though the article doesn’t go so far as to suggest anything more than singing took place, the juxtaposition of young females and a mainland Chinese legal administrator in a headline were apparently enough to land this keyword onto LINE’s bad words list.
*Wang, who is from mainland China, is not technically allowed to run ATV since ATV is a free-to-air television station in Hong Kong. Hong Kong media laws were written this way to prevent meddling by Chinese authorities—which is what Wang is alleged to have done, by promoting pro-mainland coverage, leading for calls to dismiss him and punish ATV.
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.
Hi all, the book is out! If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog over the past two years, please go out and buyacopy or spread the word to a friend. I think more than just sharing information about sensitive topics in Chinese history, past and current, I hope it can start a conversation about why governments are motivated to control information. It’s only by first understanding what the motives are for censorship before we can think of ways to convince authorities to protect/expand the limits of free speech.
If you want to hear more about the book (if you’re at this site, you probably already have a good idea of what’s in it!), you can read/listen to the following interviews I recently did:
And two of my favorite China academics had this to say about the book:
"This is a fascinating study with important implications for anyone who is interested in the intellectual and political climate of contemporary China. Highly recommended." - Victor H, Mair, University of Pennsylvania
"This book’s funny, smart & will be fun 2 teach w/ China in 10 Words … After dipping into his new Blocked on Weibo book & both laughing & learning, surprised I wasn’t already following @jasonqng —rectified that.” - two tweets from Jeff Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine
And if you’re curious about what I’ll be working on next, check out this Citizen Lab post. Thanks for reading this blog the past two years!
Why it is blocked: Before the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the KMT waged a ruthless campaign to wipe out the Communists. However, when confronted with the Japanese invasion, the two sides mutually decided (due partiallyto patriotism, due partially to the Communists kidnapping Chiang Kai-shek and forcing him to end his purge of the Communists) to form an alliance. After the defeat of the Japanese, the two sides resumed their civil war, with the Communists eventually winning in 1949 and the KMT fleeing to Taiwan.
Though the KMT suffered 3 million casualties during the Second Sino-Japanese War (the numerically smaller Communists suffered roughly 500,000) and spearheaded many of the major battles, the KMT’s role in the victory has been relegated to a secondary position or intentionally overlooked in modern mainland historical narratives and textbooks. A September 3, 2010 People’s Daily editorial wrote:
The victory in the War of Resistance to Japan gives an eloquent proof that CPC is the force at the core that has saved the Chinese nation from subjugation and realized the nationwide liberation.
Blocked on Weibo: What Gets Suppressed on China’s Version of Twitter (And Why)
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here on this blog yet, but I’m excited to announce that a book I wrote is coming out this summer. (Above is an advance reader’s copy that my publisher The New Press shared.) It’s basically a version of this blog, also aimed at giving general readers the context for why certain topics in China are sensitive. There are over 150 entries, about a 100 of which are brand new, and the others which come from this blog are updated. You can pre-order online now at your favoriteonlinestore or you can pick it up at your local bookstore in August. As we get closer to the publication date, I’ll start posting entries from the book more regularly. Thanks to everyone for their support of this project over the past year: couldn’t have done it without you Tumblr and everyone else who follows this blog!
卫星电视 (satellite television / wèixīng diànshì) is TV programming broadcasted by a communications satellite orbiting the earth and received by households via an outdoor antenna, generally known as a satellite dish.
Note: Satellite dishes themselves are more colloquially referred to as woks/pots (锅 / guō) or plates/dishes (碟 / dié). The more standard word for satellite dish is 卫星天线 (天线 / tiānxiàn literally means “sky wire/line,” aka antenna). 卫星天线 and 卫星碟 are not blocked on Weibo, but 卫星锅 is. [Status]
我的奋斗 (Mein Kampf / Wǒde Fèndòu) is an autobiography and book of political theory by Adolf Hitler.
Why it is blocked: Searching for the title on Amazon China or Taobao will cut off your Internet connection to the site (though curiously, those searching from within China can access the book just fine). Besides being the work of one of the 20th-century’s most infamous dictators, Mein Kampf is also known for its inflammatory anti-communist views—another reason for the CCP to restrict it. However, due to his strong leadership and emphasis on social stability, Hitler is reported to be admired by some Chinese—though this is arguably due to ignorance rather than actual malice (the same way some Westerners embrace Mao). In May 2011, there was a bizarre Internet rumor that Hitler was raised by a Chinese family in Vienna, with a number of bloggers taking pride in China’s supposed connection with Hitler. [Status - 11/29/11: blocked; 2/5/12: unblocked; 3/12/12: blocked]
Note: 阿道夫·希特勒 (Adolf Hitler / ādàofū xītèlè) is not blocked on Weibo, Amazon.cn, or Taobao.
UPDATE: The key trigger in Deauville is “多維,” short for Duowei Times, a New York-based Chinese language newspaper which is known for its mostly even-handed news coverage. It may still be possible that Deauville is being singled out for censorship, but it is perhaps more likely that Duowei Times is the actual target and Deauville is a mostly innocent keyword.
Why it is blocked: Over the years, alongside the typical Wuxia and art films at any Asian film festival, Deauville has screened a number of incredibly raw Chinese films that engage sensitive contemporary topics. The 2010 Grand Prize winner, Judge, is about a death row inmate and the judge who controls his fate. The 2003 winner, Blind Shaft, is a brutal depiction of life as a coal miner in northern China and was banned in the PRC. [Status - 11/19/11, 2/5/12, 3/12/12: blocked]
Judge touches on a lot of topics considered sensitive in China. Did you have a lot of difficulty getting approval to make the film? Yes, there were some difficulties but we overcame them in the end. The most difficult thing was the fact that government departments were not sure about this, and they didn’t want this talked about.There were two reasons I think this film was approved. Firstly, the authenticity of the film […] every single sentence and every detail in the film is very accurate – if there were any small mistakes they picked them up.—Liu Jie, director of Judge
Your film has been banned, but why didn’t the government crack down on the novel? It is quite unusual in China. Certain aspects of Chinese politics are strange and many things don’t follow homogenous standards. It is defined as “One Country, Two Systems” but it really is “one country with several systems”. Every department seems to have its own rules […] I don’t actually understand how it works, but I can say that the Chinese Film Bureau is one of the most conservative of the artistic institutions. They probably heavily restrict films because they think movies can become a means of propaganda, instead of entertainment and artistic expression.—Li Yang, director of Blind Shaft
Note: As is the case for most Hong Kong media, the title will generally be found online written with the traditional characters “開放雜誌.” While the simplified version of the name is blocked on Weibo, the traditional one is not. [Status - 11/23/11: blocked; 2/5/12: blocked]
彭博社 (Bloomberg / Péngbóshè) is an American privately held financial software, media, and data company. Bloomberg L.P. was founded by Michael Bloomberg (current Mayor of New York City).
Why it is blocked: A number of foreign media outlets are blocked on Weibo, including Voice of America, the World Journal, and Epoch Times, but Bloomberg is notable in that it might be considered an apolitical corporation. Chinese authorities blocked Bloomberg’s website in June 2012 after it published an exposé on the wealth accumulated by future president Xi Jinping’s family, but this search block on Weibo predates that article. Currently, one is unable to make a post that contains 彭博社. Trying to do so will return the error message, “Sorry, this content violates ‘Sina Weibo’s Community Guidelines’ or related regulations and policies.” [Status - 11/25/11: blocked; 2/5/12: blocked; 3/12/12: blocked]