from the people's-republic-of-censorship dept.
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo died in custody on Thursday. Now comes the censorship:
After Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident and 2010 Nobel Peace laureate, died in custody on Thursday evening, his Chinese admirers went online to voice their sympathy and grief — and countless government censors buckled down for a long night's work.
The Chinese government's drive to silence discussion of Liu — who died of liver cancer at age 61 — predates even 2009, when he was handed an 11-year sentence for helping draft Charter 08, a document calling for multiparty democracy and freedom of speech. On Chinese social networks, searches for "Liu Xiaobo" return nothing, and most Chinese citizens barely know his name.
Yet on Friday, China's social media sites were filled with expressions of solidarity and grief, suggesting that Liu's case — and his ideals — may be more influential in China than many outsiders believe. These expressions were often cryptic and muted — snatches of poetry, allegorical quotes — but still, the censors responded in force.
On Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter, they deleted photos of Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since Liu's arrest, though she has never been charged with a crime. They blocked flickering candle emojis, the letters RIP and LXB, and the dates "1955-2017," the years of Liu's birth and death. They removed poems by Liu and Liu Xia; photos of the South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993; and even the phrase: "someone died today."
"I think this kind of pokes a hole in the narrative that he's not well known in China," said William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher at Amnesty International. "I don't know if I'd characterize this as a paradigm shift. But it might be that some of the seeds he'd started to plant — or, the ideas in Charter 08 — have started to bear fruit among the rights defense community, and they're becoming more well known and are spreading among parts of the general public."
[...] Yet Friday's outpouring of support also exposed some of the censorship apparatus' weaknesses. On Friday, "LXB" was censored, but "XB" was not. The Chinese word for candle — 蜡烛 — was censored, but adding a space between the characters — 蜡 烛 — brought up several results, many related to Liu's death.
This editorial will set you straight.