Outspoken Chinese censor silenced

A Chinese censor working for popular microblogging website Weibo snapped on the back of a censorship story that is going viral across the country.

The Guandong Southern Weekly newspaper took action when it emerged a top Communist Party official had been found editing an article without consulting the publication. Later, Southern Weekly’s Weibo account was accessed by the Chinese authorities who published a retraction on all comments about censorship, prompting further protest and rare planned strike action at the paper.

Because of the controversy, China’s government insisted censoring all keywords and terms related to Southern Weekly, now known as the “Southern Weekly New Year Greeting incident”.

Since, reports Global Voices blogger Oiwan Lam, users were airing their frustrations at Sina Weibo. As a result, one manager – going by @geiune_Yu_Yang – appears to have snapped and posted a detailed description about the censorship process, which Lam translated.

The manager said Chinese users are shielded from seeing the censorship process. If the company does not remove controversial posts itself, the alternative is that the entire account becomes banned. He pointed out that there is a group of people who have the authority to send alert signals to the website, and also have the power to “game-over” the website at a moment’s notice. Yu_Yang compared it to the “Emperor’s 18 golden orders in ancient times”, in that when an urgent order is given, there is no choice but to carry them out.

Yu_Yang said that, although the company wants to give voices to people, there is a manipulating hand behind the scene, going on to claim that the country has so many sensitive barriers that the company must operate within a certain set of rules.

He compared censorship orders to a scene in Cinema Paradiso, when a Catholic priest sits backstage, ready to ring a bell when a scene that is considered against the church appears. “We havve to take orders whenever we hear the ringing bell,” the manager said.

According to the Washington Post, the message must have rang a bell, as it was deleted, swiftly – and so was the manager’s account.  But, as he pointed out before the message was deleted, messages can spread quickly regardless of their eventual deletion, as will this one.

At this point, we direct China’s Communist Party to read all about the Streisand Effect.