What Is The Price Of Press Censorship?

At the China Media Project, Chang Ping examines the implications of the case of Wei Yinin, the deputy chief of the Haikou City Public Security Department, whose name was obscured in the press after he was charged with corruption:

Recently, the deputy chief of the Internet Team of the Haikou City Public Security Department was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His crime: accepting bribes. Local media made a point of obscuring his name, identifying him simply as Wei X-Ning (魏某宁). Only when Southern Weekly followed up with an investigative report did everyone learn that his name was Wei Yining (魏一宁).

But one thing no media inside China bothered to talk about was the fact that this was a case of corruption in which the power to control the press (舆论监控) was abused — and the case should prompt deeper reflection on corruption of the propaganda system itself.

The court found that Wei Yining had used “the convenience of his position,” with the power to control the internet, to delete more than 280 internet posts in exchange for around 700,000 yuan. The bribe payers were 11 web police from the public security bureaus of 11 local cities in 6 provinces. They were responsible [to their local superiors] for removing posts on two major Haikou-based websites that was detrimental to the image of their local governments. They would pay up, and Wei Yining would send down an order for the posts to be deleted.

The way this was done was actually quite simple. Once the local internet control officers had paid Wei Yining the fee he demanded, Wei would issue orders for deletion of the content to senior web managers at the sites in question via QQ message. For the web managers executing such orders was simply a matter of habit. Even if they had their doubts, they wouldn’t dare say anything. Generally, it would take only 10 minutes for an order to be executed from start to finish.

The Wei Yining case makes clear just how much room there is for corruption in the execution of ostensible official business. It is now routine practice for local governments to pay for the removal of criticism or for the promotion of laudatory coverage. [Source]