The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.
Go a step further in controlling malicious commentary on Facebook founder [Mark] Zuckerberg’s visit to China. Stop hyping the story. (March 21, 2016) [Chinese]
Zuckerberg met with propaganda czar Liu Yunshan and Alibaba CEO Jack Ma during his trip to Beijing over the weekend, viewed by many as an effort to bring Facebook back to China. Facebook has been blocked since 2009, following violent clashes in Xinjiang.
CDT Chinese found that social media users’ comments on Zuckerberg’s visit have already been closely scrutinized. A Weibo post by “Headline News” (Toutiaoxinwen @头条新闻) about his meeting with Liu Yunshan, for instance, has been reposted over 1,200 times, but has a mere 12 comments. Weibo isn’t absent of all snark, though:
Gefan (@戈饭): He really is conversant in communism and business. It embarrasses me.
@afdsam: This guy doesn’t have the integrity of other brothers.
Niutaotao (@牛滔滔)：How did he upload (his photo) to FB？
Tiaoshu (@迢书): How can you beat him up for kissing ass? He’s a businessman. He wants to provide a service inside the Wall and make some money at it. What’s wrong with that? He hates the Wall, and he hasn’t added a single brick to it. He just hasn’t chosen to be a hero, but he hasn’t done anything evil. [Chinese]
If Zuckerberg does hope to bring Facebook back to China, the odds are more against him than ever. The chief editor of the People’s Daily, Yang Zhenwu, warns in today’s edition that it would be a “historic mistake” for the central government to lose control of new media. Eva Dou and Josh Chin summarize the essay in the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Xi paid particular attention to the news outlets’ online operations and called on official news media to “reflect the Party’s will and views.” Chinese social media services are generally more freewheeling than traditional media, but have been held to gradually stricter censorship.
Mr. Yang’s essay emphasized that social media is not only not exempt from this loyalty campaign, it must lead it. That point might be of interest Mark Zuckerberg, who was in Beijing over the weekend as part of his long-running charm offensive to convince China’s censors to allow Facebook back in the country. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Some people believe the party’s publications, TV channels and radio stations should direct public opinion, while there is a ‘hole in one side of the net” for local publications or new media,” Mr. Yang wrote. “This kind of belief is wrong and harmful.”
[…] “Only when new mainstream media develop with continually growing user numbers, market share and influence, can we effectively seize the frontline of online public opinion,” he wrote. [Source]
Beyond the reach of the Great Firewall, quips about Zuckerberg’s trip proliferated. His jog through Tiananmen Square on a steel-gray day was rife with opportunities for jokes and Photoshopping. At Global Voices Advocacy, Oiwan Lam has collected comments and memes from Facebook users in Hong Kong.
Read more about Facebook in China via CDT.
Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source.