China cen­sors scrub emoji trib­utes to Liu

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

China’s cen­sors raced Fri­day to scrub so­cial me­dia net­works of can­dles, RIP and other trib­utes to No­bel lau­re­ate Liu Xiaobo as they seek to si­lence dis­cus­sion about the prom­i­nent dis­si­dent’s death. The 61-year-old democ­racy ac­tivist died Thurs­day from liver can­cer while un­der heavy po­lice guard at a hos­pi­tal in the north­east­ern city of Shenyang - but most Chi­nese re­main clue­less about his death or even who he was.

A search for news of his death on Chi­nese search en­gine Baidu turned up no re­sults and China’s Twit­ter-like Weibo blocked the use of his name and ini­tials “LXB”. Even the most ob­scure homages to Liu on Weibo were re­moved. One user who posted “RIP” was ad­vised it had been deleted “be­cause it vi­o­lated rel­e­vant laws and reg­u­la­tions” - even though the post did not men­tion the ac­tivist by name. RIP is now among the search terms blocked on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia net­works. Griev­ing users who had posted can­dle emo­jis on Weibo saw them erased. When ac­cess­ing Weibo on a per­sonal com­puter the sym­bol is no longer among the emoti­con op­tions. On the Weibo mo­bile app, how­ever, the can­dle was still avail­able but at­tempts to post it were blocked and trig­gered a mes­sage say­ing“con­tent is il­le­gal!”The Chi­nese word for“can­dle”is also barred.

‘The brave one’

China tightly con­trols the In­ter­net through a cen­sor­ship sys­tem known as the “Great Fire­wall” and closely mon­i­tors so­cial me­dia net­works for sen­si­tive con­tent. So­cial me­dia sites have been cleaned of com­ments prais­ing the dis­si­dent. “He is the brave one for this time. The his­tory will re­mem­ber him whether alive or dead,” one user said in a Weibo post that was later deleted. An­other said: “You, who was just freed, made the world dif­fer­ent; we, those who are still in prison, salute you.”

Even a Chi­nese lan­guage ar­ti­cle about Ger­man paci­fist Carl von Ossi­et­zky, the last No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate to die in cus­tody, that had been cir­cu­lat­ing on the mo­bile mes­sag­ing app WeChat can no longer be ac­cessed. A search for the most com­monly used Chi­nese trans­la­tion of Ossi­et­zky’s name also re­turned no re­sults on Weibo but it was not blocked on Baidu.

The cir­cum­stances re­called the sit­u­a­tion in 2010 when Liu was awarded the No­bel Peace Prize while serv­ing an 11-year sen­tence for “sub­ver­sion” - on­line searches for his name and ref­er­ences to his award, in­clud­ing the empty chair that rep­re­sented him at the Oslo cer­e­mony, were blocked. Not all on­line posts were sym­pa­thetic to Liu, a vet­eran of the 1989 Tianan­men Square protests whose ad­vo­cacy for demo­cratic re­form in­fu­ri­ated the gov­ern­ment. —AFP

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