“Guilt by Blog” And The Trouble With China’s Universities

There is a new phrase circulating in China’s internet taken from China’s past to describe the repression of freedom of speech. China Media Project’s Emma Lupano reports:

As the internet has grown rapidly in China in recent years, there has been an attendant upsurge in cases where ordinary citizens (公民), or “netizens” (网民), are arrested, jailed or otherwise punished for things they dared to write. The latest case to have Web users up in arms involves the alleged sacking of a substitute professor at Hubei University for Nationalities after the teacher wrote an entry on his personal weblog criticizing the school’s anniversary celebrations.

The case, involving 50 year-old teacher Guo Guanglin (郭广林), has drawn a flurry of coverage in the commercial media over the last week, and it has once again resurrected that age-old term denoting the violent repression of speech — “to incur guilt by one’s words,” or wenziyu (文字狱).

“To incur guilt by one’s words” is now an increasingly popular buzzword denoting official action taken against ordinary citizens who speak their minds in spaces — like blogs, chatrooms and SMS messages — where the line between the personal and the public is blurred. But the term can also be used to point generally to more egregious examples of censorship.

A related and more direct phrase in Chinese is “incurring guilt by one’s words,” or yin yan huo zui (因言获罪).

Read more about how netizens create their own language in the face of online censorship and netizens’ voices on CDT.


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