Dozens of outspoken, popular blogs shut in China

Twitter-like "microblogs" are the government's primary target

Topics: China,

Dozens of blogs by some of China’s most outspoken users have been abruptly shut down while popular Twitter-like services appear to be the newest target in government efforts to control social networking.

More and more Chinese bloggers are using the newer microblogs as their primary publishing tool, using their brief, punchy message format to chat with one another and promote their longer blog posts. But one of the country’s top four microblog sites is now down for maintenance, and the other three show a “beta” tag as if they are in testing, though they have been operating for months. The companies that run the websites aren’t saying why.

“I was writing a new post and suddenly my blog couldn’t open,” lawyer Pu Zhiqiang told The Associated Press. Legal expert Xu Zhiyong said his blog on the popular Sohu Inc. portal was also shut down Wednesday, a day after his Sohu microblog was closed. Both men are well-known for taking on sensitive issues.

Chinese officials fear that public opinion might spiral out of control as social networking — and social unrest — boom among its 420 million Internet users. China maintains the world’s most extensive Internet monitoring and filtering system, and it unplugged Twitter and Facebook last year.

Blogger Yao Yuan listed at least 61 closed Sohu blogs, including his own, on a separate, unblocked blog Thursday. He called the closings mass murder.

“If Internet users don’t speak out, all sites will be cracked down on in the future,” said Yao, who owns an Internet-promotion company in Shanghai. “Ordinary people will forever lose their freedom to speak online, and the government can rest without worrying anymore.”

Microblogs can quickly aggregate critical voices, which is why authorities have been increasing controls, said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at the University of California-Berkeley.

“However, given the speed and volume of microblogging content produced in Chinese cyberspace, censors are still several steps behind at this stage,” he said in an e-mail.

China’s government actually embraced microblogs earlier this year, with the Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, launching a microblog of its own.

The People’s Daily microblog showed no sign Thursday of new restrictions. Meanwhile, Beijing’s public security bureau announced it would set up a microblog for the city’s police, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday.



But in April, a leading Internet regulator called for requirements that people use their real names when going online.

“As long as our country’s Internet is linked to the global Internet, there will be channels and means for all sorts of harmful foreign information to appear on our domestic Internet,” Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, said in comments released this week by the New York-based group Human Rights in China. “Many weak links still exist in our work. These problems have weakened our ability to manage the Internet scientifically and effectively.”

Privately run microblogs are showing signs of feeling pinched. The Netease.com Inc. microblog is down for maintenance, while the Sina Corp., Sohu and Tencent microblogs display a beta tag.

Sina president Chen Tong responded Wednesday night to speculation that the site could be shut down. “Of course not,” he said on the site’s microblog. “I’ve said that sentence more than any other one today.”

Government officials could not be reached for comment.

Despite Beijing’s extensive restrictions, technologically savvy users can still jump China’s “Great Firewall” with proxy servers or other alternatives. And they can just keep publishing. Pu, the lawyer, said he has already set up a new Sohu blog — his 13th so far.

——

Associated Press researcher Xi Yue in Beijing contributed to this report.

Cara Anna is a writer who most recently lived in purdah on Pakistan's Afghan border.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>