Murong Xuecun on the “New Censorship Campaign”

In an opinion piece in the Guardian, writer Murong Xuecun discusses the closure of his various weibo accounts and the ongoing crackdown on Internet expression in China:

Not long ago, scholar Zhang Xuezhong, Xiao Xuehui, Song Shinan and lawyer Si Weijiang all saw their Weibo accounts deleted. They each had large numbers of followers, who spread their words to an even wider audience. But all of a sudden their names have disappeared. Nobody knows why, or who ordered it, but we all know that a new round of a censorship campaign has commenced. As in 1957, 1966 and 1989, Chinese intellectuals are feeling more or less the same fear as one does before an approaching mountain storm: the scariest thing of all is not being silenced or being sent to prison; it is the sense of powerlessness and uncertainty about what comes next. There is no procedure, no standard, and not a single explanation. It’s as if you are walking into a minefield blindfolded. Not knowing where the mines are buried, you don’t know when you will be blasted to pieces.

Two days later, at 10pm on 11 May, my Weibo accounts with Sina, Tencent, NetEase, and Sohu were deleted simultaneously. When the web staff from these sites got in touch with me several minutes later, they told me more or less the same story: they were following an order from a “superior department”, whose identity they could not reveal because of a confidentiality agreement. In fact, such departments are as numerous as hairs on an ox: State Council Information Office, State Internet Information Office, Propaganda Department, Public Security Bureau, the secretary of a dignitary … Almost every department and dignitary can order internet companies to delete information and accounts while they themselves hide in the dark. Seeing speeches that trigger their ire, they can make them disappear for ever by simply picking up the telephone receiver.

I am mentally prepared for such things to happen, but when they do, I still feel dismayed and angry. I am a “big V” [verified user] on Weibo, possessing over 8.5m followers across the four web portals, and 3.96m in Sina alone. In a period of over three years, I had posted more than 1,900 Weibo messages totalling more than 200,000 words, each written with deliberation and care. In a split second, however, they were all brought to naught. [Source]

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