Crime of the Week: Illegal Dedication of Flowers
The Word of the Week comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.
fēifǎ xiànhuā 非法献花
Seemingly extemporaneous charge that a security official reportedly informed mock-mourners they were committing outside of Google’s Beijing headquarters following the company’s 2010 announcement that they were “no longer willing to continue censoring” results on Google.cn, and hence may be pulling out of China.
After Google announced an unwillingness to continue complying with Chinese censors in January of 2010, many correctly predicted the end of Google.cn. A number of people offered a mock tribute of flowers in front of the Google headquarters in Beijing as a symbolic act of mourning. Some of these people were dispersed by security guards who alleged that what they were doing amounted to the “illegal dedication of flowers.” Because the charge sounded like it had been made up on the spot, it quickly spread around the web, inspiring a few spin-off terms:
- Illegal eating and drinking (fēifǎ chīhē 非法吃喝) illegal eating and drinking—This term was created when users of Twitter (which is blocked in China) met together to discuss the imprisonment of three netizens in Fujian. Domestic Security Departmentagents broke up the meeting and accused those present of “illegal eating and drinking.”
- Illegal silent tribute (fēifǎ mòāi 非法默哀) A phrase based on “illegal dedication of flowers.” Example: I hear that Google is leaving China. Let’s all conduct an illegal silent tribute.
- Illegal XX (fēifǎ XX 非法XX) Malleable generic phrase based on “illegal dedication of flowers.” Indicates some innocuous action that the government bans because of its symbolic meaning.
Google closed its Google.cn search engine in March of 2010, and began redirecting users to Google.com.hk for Chinese-language searches. In August of 2018, a leak revealed that the company had plans to again offer a censored search engine for Chinese users, generating protest from Google staff members and advocates of free expression.