By Henry Williams.
CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping has reportedly called for deeper reforms during his trip to southern Guangdong. His comments come just as a number of traditionally restricted search terms have become searchable on Weibo.
“The government earnestly wants to study the issues that are being brought up, and wants to perfect the market economy system – by deepening reform, and resolve the issues by strengthening rule of law.”
While searches on Weibo for ‘Xi Jinping’ do indeed return results where before they did not, it is misleading to claim that this marks any sort of sea-change for censorship in China.
First, while searches for General Secretary’s name alone might work, posts about him are still being censored. A post about Xi’s trip to southern Guangdong was blocked this morning – according to HKU’s Weiboscope – despite the trip itself being openly reported in state media.
Secondly, other terms continue to be blocked – for example, the Pinyin romanisation of his name “jinping” still can’t be searched for.
While Weibo continues to dominate conversation about internet censorship in China, it is not the only platform of concern to authorities. WeChat, a mobile social messaging application developed by a Shenzhen startup, has taken off across Asia. Similar to Whatsapp, the application has access to a user’s contacts, text messages and location – which detractors argue would be perfect for monitoring a citizens movements.
WeChat was discussed in the Guardian last week, and has human rights activists worried:
“It’s a new product and not developed by China Mobile or China Unicom, [two of China’s main telecoms companies], which have been monitoring my calls and text messages for over 10 years. But the guobao (internal security bureau) surprised me with their ability to repeat my words or voice messages verbatim, though I’m sure I only sent them to some friends through WeChat.”