China’s Censorship Now Affects All of Us

    Fergus Ryan

    Politics, Asia

    The blowback from the constitutional change is evidence.

    To watch the Chinese censorship apparatus working in overdrive in the past 48 hours has been to see it reach its reductio ad absurdum in real time.

    So sensitive are the proposed changes to the Chinese constitution—which clear the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely—that even arguments made by social media users in favour of the change were caught in the censor’s net. ‘I’m not sure if Germany counts as a democracy,’ hazarded one Weibo user in a tepidly supportive post, ‘but their presidency doesn’t have any term limit.’ The post, like thousands of others, was promptly whacked by Chinese censors.

    While some offered opinions, others sprang into action, prompting more action from the censors. Almost immediately after the constitutional announcement, queries for the word ‘emigrate’ spiked on Chinese search engine Baidu. Soon after, the word was blocked online altogether.

    By Monday morning, ‘emigrate’ was only the 10th most censored search term on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo. Outranking it were words one might expect—‘constitution’, ‘amend the constitution’, ‘Xi Jinping’ and ‘ascend to the throne’. But others, more obscure, were also blocked as censors scrambled to stamp out the memes and coded language that Weibo users were creating on the fly in an attempt to circumvent the censorship.

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