Let’s talk about Bo Xilai. Because in Mainland China, most cannot.
Yesterday Internet censors worked overtime to block out commentary about the Bo Xilai case. (See my post yesterday.) Removed were any posts mentioning his nickname – or that of his wife. She’s in prison facing possible execution for her role in the murder of Neil Heywood.
Bo meanwhile has been stripped of all his titles and duties, and was even removed from the Communist party. Seriously – even Icarus had a softer landing. Amazingly even notes of sympathy were removed.
What weren’t taken off-line were the supportive posts praising the government for its bold action. One blogger said the whole affair was going to cost taxpayers a lot of money – how else could you explain Weibo posts praising President Hu Jintao if not through paid commentary?
What’s mystifying is how the “facts” as presented this week bear a striking resemblance to the Internet rumours that circulated last month. One netizen said she would no longer doubt rumours. Another wondered if the facts were presented to match the rumours – and then asked what facts were withheld.
Overall it’s been a frenetic month for on-line news in China. It’s destabilising for the government that critical political information is in the hands of the many. The Communist Party had its hands on the mouthpiece for so long it’s unwilling to cede control.
In one of my training courses on social media I call the writers and bloggers and on-line activists “the publishers formerly known as audience.” This is meant to be a pithy way to explain the widespread influence of social media.
Today the citizens of China are taking over the role previously played by government. Strict information control is a thing of the past. Now information is flowing free and fast – and sometimes it stays one step ahead of the censors.
Sadly, this blog is not available in China. Almost all Western blogs are blocked. I hope to hear from a reader there to prove me wrong.