Chinese internet: 'a new censorship campaign has commenced' Murong Xuecun, who has had his accounts deleted, explains how bloggers compare being silenced on the internet to being put to death Murong Xuecun guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 May 2013 10.48 BST On 9 May, I posted the following message on Sina Weibo: "The account you have been managing for years can be deleted in a second. Then you try to plot its reincarnation by writing every word from scratch. The house you have been building all your life can be bulldozed in a moment. Then you try to rise from its rubble by picking up every piece of brick and tile. "This is my Chinese dream: harbour no illusion about the evil powers, and understand that their evil will only grow. "Be not depressed or desperate, however: start from zero, from minus, from rubble, and grow with resilience." These words are the reflection of my true feelings. Not long ago, scholar Zhang Xuezhong, Xiao Xuehui, Song Shinan and lawyer Si Weijiang all saw their Weibo accounts deleted. They each had large numbers of followers, who spread their words to an even wider audience. But all of a sudden their names have disappeared. Nobody knows why, or who ordered it, but we all know that a new round of a censorship campaign has commenced. As in 1957, 1966 and 1989, Chinese intellectuals are feeling more or less the same fear as one does before an approaching mountain storm: the scariest thing of all is not being silenced or being sent to prison; it is the sense of powerlessness and uncertainty about what comes next. There is no procedure, no standard, and not a single explanation. It's as if you are walking into a minefield blindfolded. Not knowing where the mines are buried, you don't know when you will be blasted to pieces. Two days later, at 10pm on 11 May, my Weibo accounts with Sina, Tencent, NetEase, and Sohu were deleted simultaneously. When the web staff from these sites got in touch with me several minutes later, they told me more or less the same story: they were following an order from a "superior department", whose identity they could not reveal because of a confidentiality agreement. In fact, such departments are as numerous as hairs on an ox: State Council Information Office, State Internet Information Office, Propaganda Department, Public Security Bureau, the secretary of a dignitary â€¦ Almost every department and dignitary can order internet companies to delete information and accounts while they themselves hide in the dark. Seeing speeches that trigger their ire, they can make them disappear for ever by simply picking up the telephone receiver. I am mentally prepared for such things to happen, but when they do, I still feel dismayed and angry. I am a "big V" [verified user] on Weibo, possessing over 8.5m followers across the four web portals, and 3.96m in Sina alone. In a period of over three years, I had posted more than 1,900 Weibo messages totalling more than 200,000 words, each written with deliberation and care. In a split second, however, they were all brought to naught. I can only guess the reasons. It could be my criticism toward a secret directive called the "seven-no" policy. Just in the previous day, several people confirmed a directive issued by a certain department of the government or the Communist party, which listed seven topics that are not supposed to be mentioned by university teachers: universal values, press freedom, civil society, civil rights, historic errors of the Communist party, the class of crony capitalists, and judicial independence. Soon, the Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao, known for its pro-Communist stance, ran a report on the same subject. "The 'seven no's' can actually be summed into one," I wrote on my Weibo page, " 'Don't be civil.' " Perhaps someone was offended by this sentence. Another possibility concerns the "He Bing incident." He Bing is a professor at Chinese University of Political Science and Law, and has over 430,000 followers on Sina Weibo. According to an announcement issued by Xinhua on 10 May, he has been silenced by the State Internet Information Office for "purposely spreading rumours." He wrote a statement responding to this accusation, arguing that the issuance of the punishment did not follow standard administrative procedure, and declaring that he was preparing to file a lawsuit. He asked me to help him retweet the statement. I tried five times, and saw the message censored each time. The next night, I posted a message on Weibo, asking the State Internet Information Office to answer the following questions: Who gives you the power to deprive citizens of their right to free speech? What are the relevant legal standards and procedures for identifying rumours? On what basis do you accuse He Bing of spreading rumours? Why do you repeatedly delete He's statement? Why would you not allow him to defend himself? As one can imagine, the State Internet Information Office is not interested in answering my questions. In 20 minutes, all my Weibo accounts were deleted. These are only my guesses. In fact, silencing a person requires no reason at all. As most Chinese know, our country has a blacklist. Having your name appear there turns you into the enemy of the country and the people. Your articles cannot be published, and your name cannot be mentioned. Whatever you do or say â€“ even a simple "Hello" â€“ will get deleted in no time. Many people have expressed indignation on my behalf. Some held virtual candle vigils and "memorial services" for me on their Weibo pages, while other protested by boycotting Weibo. People started quoting words I wrote during my "lifetime", which populated Weibo in the dozen of hours following my disappearance. Quickly, "Murong Xuecun" became the most searched words on Weibo. In fact, such incidents do not make news in China, for people have long been inured to them. Individuals are silenced on daily basis, and the pool of sensitive words grows by the hour: Liu Xiaobo, Gao Xingjian, Ai Weiwei, Wei Jingsheng, Liao Yiwu, Ma Jian, Mo Zhixu, Xiao Shu â€¦ The list goes on. It now includes me, as well as two more scholars who have since been silenced: Wu Wei and Wu Zuolai, whose accounts were deleted on the morning of 13 May. Lurking in the shadows, the "relevant organs" carry out such work as part of their daily routine, and expect people to remain silent. They have perhaps failed to foresee that in the age of Weibo, their actions could trigger such a severe backlash. To this, they responded with more censorship. Netizens often compare being silenced on the Chinese internet to being put to death, and registering a new account is likened to reincarnation. Most Weibo users are familiar with the term "the Reincarnation party". It has come to symbolise people's resistance and struggle against censors. Every member of the party shares the same experience: being killed, and reincarnated; killed again, reincarnated again. Xiao Han, a teacher at Chinese University of Political Science and Law and a friend of mine, has reincarnated 212 times. Journalist Yang Haipeng started a game after many reincarnations by registering himself under the names of the 108 heroes in the novel Outlaws of the Marsh, one at a time. He started with Song Jiang, followed by Lu Junyi. Now he is Fei Xuan, hero No 47. The record-holder is a user named "Repair." As of 13 May, she has reincarnated 418 times. If she is unable to use that name, she will become "Re-pair", "Repare" or "ReIpair". I reincarnated on the night of 12 May, under the new name "Pingyuan Dongfang Shuo," who was a famous minister during the Han dynasty. The first thing I did after reincarnation was to post a thank-you note to the individuals who spoke out for me. The next was to express my opinion toward the statement [reportedly made by Xi Jinping] that "Repudiating Mao would have led to national chaos". "The evaluation of historic figures should be based on facts. Their merits deserve praise and their crimes warrant criticism," I wrote. "Forbidding repudiation means avoiding, hiding and falsifying certain facts. It is both a blasphemy against history and a violation of intellectual freedom. The truth has no agenda, but it can enlighten our eyes and illuminate our minds. Lu Xun once wrote an essay titled "On Opening Your Eyes to See". If our right to repudiate is denied, the article should instead be called "On Closing Your Eyes to Fabricate". In my third message, I retweeted an essay from another web user, which discussed the methods people can adopt to protect their rights when the police knock on their doors. I do not know what was wrong with these messages. In just 10 minutes, my account was annihilated, a tragedy that was followed, of course, by more candles and memorial services. My next reincarnation is going to be more difficult. The Chinese government makes sure its internet technology keeps pace with the times, which leaves me effectively no loophole to exploit. On the morning of 13 May, I attempted to re-register on Weibo, and after an hour of typing almost 30 versions of verification codes, I still couldn't get registered. My IP address, which is static, has been blocked. Registering a new account would require a verification code to be sent to a mobile number. I have only one mobile phone, which has similarly been blocked. A friend once asked me what it felt like to be silenced. "It's as if you were chatting and laughing with friends in a brilliantly lit house, when you suddenly fell into a dark pit," I told him. "You yell at the top of your lungs, but no one can hear you. You struggle to get out, but only sink deeper." I also need to console those who love me, and let them know everything is fine. In this abyss, I am once again visited by the biting chill of uncertainty, of not knowing what will come next. I am not as prepared as I thought. I am still scared, but I will not stop struggling, because I believe my silence would only embolden those who are trampling on my rights, and will trample on the rights of others. I need to stand bold straight and tell those in the "relevant organs": you can never take away my rights. This abyss, I believe, will not remain dark for ever. As long as I keep up my effort, I will eventually find a piece of flint and kindle a tiny spark to illuminate the square inch in front of my feet. Translated by Helen Gao source:Chinese internet: 'a new censorship campaign has commenced' | World news | guardian.co.uk ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PRC spending mucho on clamping down own citizens for peaceful rise...One day PRC gonna impolode under its own arrogance. All it needs is a spark...a smalll divine spark of freedom.