Does Hu Xijin Favor Free Speech?

Netizens were dumbstruck by Global Times Chief Editor Hu Xijin’s November 21 weibo in favor of free speech:

HuXijin: I hope the long-term impact of the Ren Jianyu case in today’s Internet age is the establishment of precedent that will end the political and cultural tradition of the  “criminalization of speech.” Political speech and the propagation of [other’s] speech which does not infringe upon the rights of others and does not precipitate concrete action should not be criminalized. In other words, if “comment deletion” must continue for a time, then a resolute end should come to the “criminalization of comment posting.” This is a key pathway to achieving a higher level of free speech.
胡锡进:希望任建宇案在互联网时代产生判例的长远影响,终结“因言获罪”的政治和文化传统。不涉及侵权和无任何实际行动的政治性言论和言论传播应获得绝对不 被治罪的权利,换句话说,如果“删贴”还不得不维持一段的话,那么各种“因帖治罪”应彻底结束了。这应是通往更高言论自由的一个关键性台阶。
Ren Jianyu, a young village official in Chongqing, was sentenced to two years of re-education through labor last August for reposting critiques of Chongqing officials on Weibo. This was just months before Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai’s protracted fall from grace. Authorities claimed that T-shirts found in Ren’s apartment emblazoned with the slogan “Give me liberty or give me death” (不自由,毋宁死) proved his intent to stage a coup. Ren was released early from detention on November 19.
Hu Xijin, known as a Party apologist, has been notably outspoken in defense of Ren. He wrote a weibo in this vein in October, before Ren’s appeal court hearing (translated by Tea Leaf Nation):

HuXijin: The appeal hearing of Pengshui University student village official Ren Jianyu’s sentencing to re-education through labor for Weibo retweets has begun. I believe he’ll win. Because [what he did] didn’t harm any individual person, and it was pure speech that didn’t create any social conflicts–the era when these kinds of commentary could be punished for being ‘against the Party [or] against socialism’ needs to come to a thorough conclusion. I hope that

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2 Responses to Does Hu Xijin Favor Free Speech?

  1. Will says:

    Seems that Hu Xijin has sent out a trial balloon in the direction of slightly less suppression of free speech on China’s internet. At the same time, with the Party monopolizing government and the media, a small step in the direction of fewer restrictions on speech could easily be reversed at any time by government fiat on the whim of a Party oligarch.

  2. [...] even if Hu Xijin, one of China’s top 100 opinion-makers, was pushing the boundaries for free speech in the PRC, the piece never would have seen the light of day if it were not in some sense useful to [...]