Word of the Week: Empty Chair

The Southern Metropolis Daily published this controversial cover after “empty chair” became a sensitive word.

空椅子 (kōng yǐzi): empty chair

Writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion of state power” on December 25, 2009, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace PrizeUnable to attend the award ceremony in Oslo, the laureate was represented by his empty seat. Shortly thereafter, the term “empty chair” became a sensitive word in Chinese cyberspace.

Some bloggers who used the term “empty chair” in their posts had their accounts blocked, while others who participated in a campaign to post images of empty chairs saw their posts censored. Some accounts were deleted simply for posting the image.

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The  comes from China Digital Space’s Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and frequently encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.