China gets around Cameron-style monitoring with word-play

cameronWhile David Cameron is confident that he can stamp out porn and terrorism with Chinese style monitoring and censorship, he should know that the Great Firewall of China has been bought to its knees by word play.

According to the BBC the Chinese have worked out that you can defeat the filter by replacing words which the firewall is looking for with words that it isn’t.

For example if you want to say that the government is a bunch of capitalist, corrupt, bribe merchants you use the word “Zhao.”  Zhao is the most common Chinese family name so the filters can’t pick it up, otherwise they will become completely clogged up in seconds.

But Zhao also happens to be the name of the Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang who died in 2005. So you can say A “Zhao family member” to refer to someone with a vested interest, someone who holds actual power.

Vincent Ni of the BBC Chinese Service says the way social media users are using “Zhao” is in line with a Chinese linguistic tradition which pre-dates the internet. “Chinese people have long used what are known as ‘oblique accusations’ which enable them to express their opinion when it would not be possible to make a direct criticism of those in authority.”

The method can be easily adapted on western social networking and has actually been used on satirical magazines like Private Eye where euphemisms “tired and emotional” replace more litigious phrases like “drunk in public” or “bacon lover” becomes Tory British Prime Minister with a tendency to try to control things he shouldn’t.