“Wukan” on Sina Weibo: Unblocked as Protest Postponed [Update]

As Wukan villagers agreed to postpone a protest march, keyword filtering on Sina Weibo has taken a dramatic turn. CDT staff have been following Wukan-related banned search terms on Sina Weibo since December 14 and have observed quick situational responses from the microblogging site.

Below is a list of Wukan-related banned search terms originally found and tested by CDT staff on December 14, 2011:

Wukan” (乌坎) [Wukan in simplified Chinese], “Wukan”, “raven rugged” (乌鸦 坎坷) [these two irrelevant phrases consist Chinese characters “Wu” (乌) and “Kan” (坎), which have been used by many netizens to get around censorship], “Lufeng” (陆丰) [Wukan is part of Lufeng, a county-level city in Shangwei], “Shangwei” (汕尾) [a prefectural-level city in Guangdong Province], “Party secretary” (党委书记) [Xue Chang (薛昌), the Party secretary who governed Wukan for three decades, is believed to be responsible for selling off villagers’ land to a developer], “9.21” [Wukan protests are referred as “the  September 21 Wukan Mass Incident” by state media], “Xue Jinbo” (薛锦波) [a village leader who died in police custody], “Amnesty International” (国际特赦) [AI demanded an immediate independent investigation into Xue Jinbo’s death. Interestingly, another common Chinese translation of AI (大赦国际) is not banned], “sudden death” (猝死) [Authorities claimed that Xue Jinbo’s death was due to cardiac failure (心源性猝死), “cardiogenic sudden death” in Chinese], “Zhuang Liehong” (庄烈宏) [one of the four Wukan villagers detained by the local police], “attack*” (袭击), “confrontation*” (对峙).

On December 19, one new banned search term was uncovered during a re-test, while some of the terms listed above were found to be unblocked.

The new keyword was “WK,” a simple two-letter abbreviation of “Wukan.” Many netizens have been using “WK” to get around censorship after finding that “Wukan” became a banned keyword on China’s largest search engine, Baidu, as well as on Sina Weibo.

Surprisingly, the following keywords were found to be unblocked on Sina Weibo search during a re-test on the 19th:

“Wukan”, “raven rugged” (乌鸦 坎坷), “Shangwei” (汕尾), “9.21”, “sudden death” (猝死), “Xue Jinbo” (薛锦波), “Zhuang Liehong” (庄烈宏).

On December 21, soon after Wukan villagers were reported to have postponed their protest march, three more crucial keywords were found to be unblocked:

“WK”, “Wukan” (乌坎), “Lufeng” (陆丰)

We will keep updating the keyword list as the negotiation between Wukan villagers and local government continues.

Update: “Wukan” (乌坎) [Wukan in simplified Chinese] appears to be banned again on Sina Weibo search function during a re-test conducted by CDT staff on December 22, 2011.

A new Wukan-related banned search term, “Zheng Yanxiong” (郑雁雄), was uncovered by CDT staff earlier today. But it was found unblocked again just a few hours later during a re-test. Zheng is the Municipal Committee Secretary of Shangwei. A video clip of him criticizing the Wukan protests on a conference has been circulating over the internet since December 20, 2011.


* “Attack” and “confrontation” were unblocked until December 19, but they may not necessarily be directly related to Sina Weibo’s response to Wukan protests.


Note: CDT Chinese has launched a project to crowd-source filtered keywords on Sina Weibo search. CDT independently tests the keywords before posting them (using simplified characters), but some searches later become accessible again. We welcome readers to contribute to this project so that we can include the most up-to-date information.


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