Netizens Find Space to Comment on Lhasa Riots

Tibetan unrest has prompted the Chinese government to undertake its most comprehensive Internet censorship campaign in recent memory. YouTube has been blocked inside China, presumably to stop the spread of videos of the chaos in Tibet, and one of CDT’s Beijing-based contributors reports his MyYahoo! page has been inaccessible ever since Tibet-related headlines started showing up in wire service RSS feeds. Only Xinhua versions of the news are available on mainstream news portals like Sina, Sohu and Netease, and comment functions under those articlesare now locked.

But as the Hainan-based Tianya online community demonstrates, Chinese netizens have ways of working around even the most stringent of online controls.

The Tianya Forum records roughly 200,000 online users, hundreds of thousands of new posts, and millions of comments per day. The entire Tianya community boasts more than six million registered members. In other words, anything posted to the site will be viewed extensively. Sure enough, most of the Lhasa riots-related posts are being deleted by Tianya moderators right away. Community members have nevertheless been able to comment on the riots thanks to a post called “Walk into Lhasa.” The content of the post consists entirely of touristic impressions of the Tibetan capital: blue skies, the sound of trumpets, old wrinkled men in the streets. As a result, the innocuous post–and it’s less than innocuous comment section–have so far survived the censors. Some selected comments, translated by CDT:

* We are all living in a helpless situation…… They won’t let us to care about this so what can we do!?

* Hehe, all gone.

* Lu Xun said there are only two kinds of people in China: those who are happy to be slaves, and those who want to be slaves but can’t.

* Let’s have a grand migration: Everyone in Xinjiang move to Tibet, everyone in Tibet move to Xinjiang. Then name another “Dalai.” I think representative Mao Xinyu is well suited for the job.

* Learn the wisdom of posting from this author.

* Even three Japanese were rescued? F…K, don’t they strongly support (Tibet independence)?

* This is hopeless. I published a post supporting the unity of the country, but it was deleted anyway.

* “Your post … is being moved to the “underground square.” If you have questions, please contact the editor of this forum.” What does “underground square” mean? Hell?

* I don’t know. Any posts that have “sensitive words” are deleted. Except for posts containing “beautiful scenery,” nothing else can be published, or is deleted as soon as it published.

* F…K. All deleted.

* Such big news. Why is the discussion inside of China completely banned? All real Chinese people should care about this.

* Good job, moderator. You are really efficient.

* The government wants to handle this with a low profile. Please understand this. After all, this is quite tense timing. We should not give others any ammunition to use against us.

* What’s to discuss? Separatist trash should be all killed. It’s not a good idea to just talk about it. Even if there is democracy some day, I will support a nationalist party coming to power.

* But even then it is wrong to ban the subject. People in China have the right to know. Such a big website like Tianya has no news focus on this, no discussion pages on this. Plus, most Chinese people will defend unity.

* Yep, that’s why CCTV broadcast it. They [the government] must be afraid of more radical points surfacing in the debate.

* Not sure if people inside China can watch YOUTUBE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9QNKB34cJo&&
Many comments from Chinese students abroad were deleted by YouTube. Just now I saw a bunch of comments, but they disappeared after reloading.

* What if someone is about to travel to Tibet but isn’t aware of the situation?

* YouTube is already blocked inside China.

* At this moment Chinese should be in solidarity. Don’t give those who want to disrupt the Olympics a chance.

* We do not have to love the government or the party, but we must love China.

* It’s already on CCTV. Why can’t Tianya not publicize it? Pretending to be a virgin? F…K!

* Strange, such a big thing but there’s nothing on Tianya.

* I published many posts, none of them survived. All deleted. F…K!

*There is a difference between statement and discussion.

* I say let have the government send in a few thousand chengguan (城管,”Urban Management Forces”). Problem solved.

* The most handsome photo of Brother Tao [Hu Jintao] is the where he’s wearing a helmet, standing on the streets of Lhasa in 1989.

* Sh…t. These days every word is sensitive and can’t be published online. The propaganda department is really insecure.

* Ganzi county in Sichuan has also started up (demonstrations)

* So sensitive. The whole world is watching Beijing now.

Rebecca MacKinnon has posted some interesting observations on the online response to the riots, with several links to other translations:

For those living in the West who didn’t realize that there’s little sympathy for Tibet independence among ethnic Chinese in the PRC, this blog post on Global Voices will be a shocker. John Kennedy has translated chatter from Chinese blogs and chatrooms that generally runs along the lines of: those ungrateful minorities, we give them modern conveniences and look how they thank us… where have we heard this before? Reuters has a roundup on the Washington Post that begins: “a look at Chinese blogs reveals a vitriolic outpouring of anger and nationalism directed against Tibetans and the West.”

Finally, some photo taken on March 16, around 2 pm, by a Lhasa-based blogger.

Also from the blogger in the same post: “I saw two military trucks carrying about 20 to 30 rioters, their heads were pushed down by PLA soldiers, on the Second Ring Road to the suburbs of Lhasa. I could not get the picture because the trucks were driving too fast.”