Xinhua Twitter Account Prompts Netizen Uproar

A report in a domestic newspaper has tipped off Chinese citizens to the fact that the official Xinhua News Agency has been posting on Twitter (@XHNews) since March 1, even though Twitter is banned in China, and The South China Morning Post notes that netizens responded with outrage:

The most frequently asked question by China’s netizens is: why is Xinhua allowed to use Twitter, but not us?

“I am going to report this to the police: Xinhua is obviously breaching our internet laws,” said a netizen on Sina Weibo, China’s micro-blogging service.

“Xinhua has proved itself a traitor who has chosen an evil path,” said another Weibo user in an ironic tone, referring to a speech given by President Hu Jintao.

James Griffiths at the Shanghaiist points out that The Global Times and China Daily also have Twitter handles, and The Atlantic’s Dashiell Bennett has more on Xinhua’s account:

Xinhua’s account is written in English and has posted about 3,000 times, but is not following any other accounts and has ever @ replied to anyone. (They’ve also dished out 10 rare retweets.) There are two older, now defunct accounts that may or may not have been “official.” They reportedly once followed more than 400 people as recently as October, but slowly unfollowed everyone over the last several weeks. The fact that anyone living in China is not allowed to read it, almost make @XHNews the purest form of propaganda: It talks to no one who knows better and listens to no one who talks back.

Beijing Cream’s Anthony Tao thought @XHNews was a joke the first time he saw it, and he writes that “it did itself no favors” with posts in all-caps and screenshots of English articles:

But no, rest assured, @XHNews is not a spoof account. We’d love to meet the person who operates it (probably someone very senior on the copydesk). Short of that, we’ll just say that the feed is actually very clean, free of typos, sometimes rather informative. Xinhua currently has 6,611 followers while following no one back, which is probably a good thing — we’d hate to see it pull a China Daily.

However, it does seem slightly ironic for a government agency to be using Twitter when none of its people, technically, are allowed to. Twitter has been blocked by the Great Firewall since July 2009, and with recent upgrades to said firewall, several VPN services have been crippled as well. (Note to everyone: use Witopia; it still works.)

See also an interview from PRI’s The World with Weiliang Nie, a senior producer with the BBC’s China Service, about the issue.


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