Bitter Jokes about Censorship
Translated by Deng Bolun.
Yuzhe Ziyu: Tell everyone a bitter joke about censorship.
@Full-Scale Release: I’ll tell everyone a bitter joke about software usage censorship… For a while, my company wanted to use Google Earth to make promotional videos, so we downloaded the software. There was a period when Google Earth was set on Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City (胡志明市 Hu Zhiming shi). I spent half the day trying to get it to work but kept getting notices that the connection had problems. I searched Baidu for more than an hour and found an explanation from someone in the same business: the search contained the character hu 胡 (President Hu Jintao’s surname). I was taken aback.
@Little Lightening Monkey: I’ll tell everyone a bitter joke about interview censorship… CCAV brought back footage from the Yushu Earthquake. It was submitted for inspection several times in one hour but always rejected. (Among the footage was a classic scene where a 70-year-old Tibetan woman had been buried for ages. Soldiers finally lifted her from a pile of rubble.) I finally figured out why the clip had been shot down. It was because we hadn’t gotten rid of the original sound. As the old woman was being saved, she said in Tibetan, “Thank you, Dalai Lama.”
@Wound-Up Zongzi: I’ll tell everyone a bitter joke about magazine censorship… There was a period of time when we were doing a special report. We called it “Questioning China.” We were told, “What problems does China have? Why question?” So we changed it to “Ask China.” We were told: “What qualifications do you have to ask?” Finally a title came out: “In question.”
@Black Box Chen Liaoyu: I’ll tell everyone a bitter joke about cartoon censorship. Because the name and images in the young children’s cartoon project that we spent half a year planning and designing included a chicken, the entire thing was trashed by leaders at the TV station! The reason was… a chicken1… That’s not so great, right? In the end we had to redesign the entire thing with another animal… If you mention inspection… our tears pour down…
@Child’s Triumphant Thoughts: I’ll tell everyone a bitter joke about television censorship… Around the year 2000, on a China Central Television family program, two young parents mentioned giving their baby a grabbing test.2 When the episode was being inspected, it came back with criticism from the leader. The reason was that while the father was talking, he made a circular gesture, something that could easily make people think of a certain qigong organization that has a circle as their emblem.
@Xu Lei: (I’ll continue and tell everyone a bitter joke about music censorship.) Zhu Hua put out an album that year called What’s Wrong with Me. Just when the 17th Party Congress wrapped up, the censorship office said, “We just started a meeting to dictate the direction [of the country] and then you ask what’s wrong with me. What vicious motives are you harboring?” So he changed the name of the album to Focused Like This.
@Shanmudi: I’ll continue and tell everyone a bitter joke about censorship… One night past 10 p.m., the sports editor in our microblogging group shouted in frustration that he couldn’t publish his post. He kept recieving notices of a “sensitive word” and asked us to help him to figure out. He was writing about the sports lottery. After searching for a long time, I finally discovered it was because among those lottery numbers were two which “seperated are okay, together no way.”3
2 On a child’s first birthday, objects are spread out before him or her to pick up. The item the child chooses is suppose to indicate his future inclinations. For instance, a child who pick’s up a book will be intellectual and scholarly.
3 89 and 64.