Josie Liu: Chinese Netizens “Tomb Digging” to Comment on Urumqi Riot

Not surprisingly, online comments regarding Sunday’s violence in Urumqi, , have been closely watched by China’s Internet censors.  As a result, no open public discussion is currently seen on China-based websites. .com, China’s No.1 online search provider, has closed down its BBS, or “bar,” for Xinjiang and Urumqi. “We’re very sorry, based on relevant laws and regulations, this bar is temporarily closed,” a note on .com reads. 

But Chinese have their way of getting around the censorship. Numerous posts could still be found in other “bars” on baidu.com. On other popular public discussion websites such as tianya.com, netizens are using a practise called “tomb digging,” in which they dig up posts about Xinjiang or Urumqi originally posted in the past–back to as far as 2006–and add comments about the July 5 incident. On tianya.com, for instance, there are several posts regarding Xinjiang, but their headlines shown on the main list contain no words relating to the latest violence. If one bothers to click on those posts and view the last page of comments, however, one could see newly added comments about the incident on Sunday. These “tomb digging” posts are changing rapidly, as online censors keep deleting them while netizens keep digging up new ones. 

Nonetheless, those who seek truth about the incident might be disappointed by the posts, since most of them, as of the time of this blog post, are comments from outsiders instead of first-hand accounts of what has happened. These comments express concerns, anger and sadness regarding the violence, as well as condemn Internet censorship.

Some of the comments (in Chinese) could be found on Baidu tieba here, and here, Cat898, Tianya BBS here and here. See also Xinhua News Agency’s version of the story and  CNN’s version of the story.

Read also AFP’s report: Savvy Internet users defy China’s censors on riot:

State-run China Central Television showed its first images of the violence just before midday Monday — more than 12 hours after footage began circulating on the Internet.

CCTV broadcast images of a woman apparently being kicked as she lay on the ground, protesters throwing stones at police, vehicles on fire, and two young girls with bloodied hands comforting each other.

But its footage gave a different impression from that given by some of the clips on YouTube that Uighur exile groups said backed their case that the protesters were largely peaceful.

Footage posted on YouTube showed what appeared to be, at least initially, a peaceful protest, with men and women marching, chatting on mobile phones, sipping bottled water and raising their arms as they cheered.

Another video on the site apparently taken by low-grade video technology in Urumqi showed police in black helmets leading away handcuffed protesters.

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