What China's Talking About Today: Hitting Back Against Online Censorship

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Race car driver and author Han Han says the recent censorship of Weibo comments isn't about rumor-spreading as much as Beijing showing muscle.

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Han Han Reuters

Beijing recently censored the comments feature on micro-blogs like Sina Weibo, declaring a three-day timeout after a flood of rumors about a coup in Beijing, following the ouster of Party frontrunner Bo Xilai. The feature was restored at 8:00am on Tuesday.

Commenting on the comments ban, popular author Han Han wrote the following micro-blog two hours later:

By taking away comments for three days, the government is showing that you can lose your micro-blogs forever. If people in this country often fall victim to rumors, that's because our officials educate us to believe everything we see, listen to all we hear, and not ask for anything more or think about things on another level. The result is that we are all susceptible to rumor-spreading.

Chinese media-watchers have reported that the post was distributed on Sina about 70 thousand times before it was deleted. But it's still running strong, even now.

Han Han's sensitive micro-blog may have already hit a nerve with Sina censors, but a copy on Sohu.com has been distributed nearly 80 thousand times and running.

In a display of solidarity, many of the comments beneath the entry read only "Re-blogged," or the Chinese equivalent of "re-Tweeted."

Screen shots of the original Sina Weibo publication are circulating on Chinese search engines such as Baidu.com. A screen shot taken of the Weibo app is featured below, in case that Web page disappears.

Hanhan.jpg

Sina stocks have seen a sharp descent in the past couple of days since comments were blocked, showing that this isn't only about a restriction of expression -- there is a tangible financial toll for upsetting Beijing censors.

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Massoud Hayoun is a digital-news producer for Al Jazeera America.

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