Rough translation: Sorry, this content violates “Sina Weibo’s Community Administrative Rules" or other related regulatory policies, and we’re unable to execute the intended action. If you need assistance, please contact customer service.
FreeWeibo shows posts containing Wen Jiabao still being deleted today. Searches for Wen’s name have been blocked continuously for some time now (he was unblocked briefly during the Party Congress and for the ten days after), but being unable to post his name at all is another more extreme step. Attempting to post “彭博社” (Bloomberg) also returns the same error message. By comparison, I checked several hundred other sensitive politician’s names in the past week and no one else had this form of censorship. Can folks confirm that they are unable to post 温家宝 on their end as well?
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.
Why it is blocked: Like the English definition, 组织者 has a mostly neutral connotation. In Chinese, it can refer to the organizers of a meeting or a conference as well as the organizers of a union, community, or political party. It can even refer to an athlete like Steve Nash or Peyton Manning who organizes teammates around him during a play. Of course, it’s not for sports reasons that “organizer” is blocked: it’s the organizing of labor strikes, independence movements, protests, and democratic reform campaigns that worries authorities.
Why it is blocked: Perhaps the term is used by Tibetans or citizens in Xinjiang to describe Chinese control of their provinces? Or maybe netizens use it to insult the future state of China or to describe instances of China appearing to bow to outside/American influences? The term popped up in several news reports related to China’s recent dispute with the Philippines in the South China Seas. However, it is also widely used in an apolitical manner, often to describe something that is extinct or a situation wherein someone is suppressing another.
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]
维基揭密 / 維基揭密 (WikiLeaks / Wéijījiēmì) is an online organization that publishes submissions of secret and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers. 维基 is a transliteration of “Wiki” while the last two characters can be written in various ways (see note below for discussion of variations on word), all of which roughly mean “uncovering/explaining secrets.”
Note: Both the above simplified and traditional versions have roughly the same number of Google hits. Swaps for the third and fourth characters are common. “Jie” can be written as 解, meaning “explain,” or 揭, meaning “uncover.” “Mi” can be written as 秘, meaning “secret,” or 密, meaning “dense” (put together, 秘密, they form the word “secret”). Some of these alternative variations—for instance 维基解密, apparently the most popular way to translate the term, with roughly 9 million Google hits vs. less than a million for the two above blocked versions—are unblocked.
军阀 (warlord / jūnfá) is a person who has both military and civil control over a subnational area due to armed forces loyal to the warlord and not to a central authority. Chinese history is replete with cases of warlords fomenting rebellion (or valiantly defending their territory, depending on your point of view), in particular during the Three Kingdoms era and the period from the end of the Qing Dynasty to reunification in 1928, known as the Warlord Era.
Why it is blocked: This is another case of a non-contemporary word seemingly being unnecessarily blocked. China did reach one of its weakest points during the terrible infighting during the Warlord Era, and Chiang Kai-shek’s defeat of the warlords is often credited to the KMT and not to the Chinese Communist Party, which contributed troops and resources while allied with the KMT as the First United Front. But the block is probably due to netizens comparing their corrupt and abusive local leaders to warlords. [Status - 11/13/11: blocked; 2/5/12: blocked].
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]