The instability in Egypt, which has been dominating these past few days’ headlines shows no sign of calming down soon but the reliable Chinese internet regulators are taking their own measures to play it down.
Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government has censored much of the material available online about the uprising.
Currently, any search for the word “Egypt” on the Sina microblog will return the error message: “‘Sorry, there are no relevant results.”
The only news easily accessible in China on Egypt right now comes from state-authorized media who apparently have been allowed to report on the protests as long as they focus on the violence of the protesters instead of their cause.
Social networking sites have been utilized extensively to mobilize people in the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. Time magazine’s latest edition says user-uploaded videos “…transfixed Arab audiences who, for the second time in a month, watched on TV and YouTube as a popular uprising took on an authoritarian regime” and “Like the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, the protests in Egypt were spurred by posts on social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. (The government was able to block Twitter feeds for much of the afternoon and evening of Jan. 25, and it blocked Facebook access the next day. But it was too late: the wrath was already in the streets.)” Internet and cell-phone service is still down in Egypt as the turmoil continues. Communications were cut on Thursday, Jan. 27.
Another article has Chinese online users comparing Egypt’s current situation to the crackdown on Tiananmen:
On Saturday, well-known rights lawyer Teng Biao said video footage of a lone protester in Cairo halting the progress of an armoured vehicle reminded him of China’s 1989 democracy protests, which began in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. ‘Must see! Egypt’s Tiananmen movement, a warrior blocks a military vehicle!’ Teng wrote on his Twitter account.
We suppose you can expect the Chinese government to clamp down even tighter on social media outlets for the foreseeable future with the CCP’s worst fears being played out in Cairo. Nevertheless, coming back to the situation at hand, China has issued a red travel warning urging people not to travel to Egypt. It encouraged Chinese nationals already in Egypt to be cautious and not go outside unless absolutely necessary. It also said that 300 Chinese nationals have been stranded due to canceled flights.
UPDATE: China has sent an Airbus A330 to Cairo to evacuate its citizens. The plane can carry 265 passengers but there are more than 500 Chinese stuck at the airport.
UPDATE 2: Evan Osnos of the New Yorker eloquently dissects the comparisons between Egypt and China here.
UPDATE 3: China sends even more flights to bring its nationals home.