CHINA: If Posts are Censored, Do They Make a Sound?

EMILY ROCHA WRITES – A new study has exposed further censorship of Chinese citizens. Following the release of a documentary exposing the high levels of air pollution in China earlier this year, it was found that users on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, called Weibo, were censored as they discussed the film.

The documentary, titled “Under the Dome”, was viewed nearly 200 million times internationally before it mysteriously vanished after government disapproval, along with a “stern” official warning to media to end all coverage of the documentary.

Part of the film features a child who had never seen white clouds or blue skies as proof of the degree of pollution within Chinese borders.  As news of the shocking documentary spread around the world, everyday people were stopped from sharing their own experiences regarding high pollution levels, which included first hand accounts of “haze” and critiques of the Chinese government.

Professor Matthew Auer of Bates College and Associate Professor King-wa Fu of the University of Hong Kong exposed the takedown of comments on Weibo, which they said included photo protests of “anti-pollution demonstrations.”

They argue that the main purpose for the widespread censorship on the subject of pollution was mainly in regard to squashing demonstrations – and the government got their wish.  So far, the removal of all responses to the documentary has proven to be very effective.

For further information on the study by Auer and King-wa Fu, please see the latest issue of the Index on Censorship.

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