Young internet users can be impressively resourceful. China’s formidable web censors are finding it difficult to control online discussions about Bo Xilai, his wife, Neil Heywood, and other aspects of the most exciting political intrigue to hit China in years.
As the FT reports,
[T]he country’s 500m-odd web users debated the political drama anyway using pictures, code-words and vague comments about power and corruption – all of which everybody seemed to understand instinctively.
“Pathetic! How ignorant that such a high leader gets himself into such a mess,” wrote Sun Xiangbo in a discussion attached to a picture of Bo Xilai. Hung Huang, the daughter of Mao Zedong’s English teacher and a prominent publisher and blogger, wondered whether “in this country, when a man does something bad, it’s all the woman’s fault”.
“Singing red until you turn purple, purple until you turn black,” added another microblogger under the pseudonym Huirenbujuan 2008, in a reference to Mr Bo’s promotion of “red” revolutionary songs and “black” anti-crime campaigns while party leader in Chongqing, a large city in southwest China.
China’s internet censors have been faltering recently. After a high-speed rail crash last year killed 40 people, Weibo users took to the web to voice frustration about the political corruption and poor safety standards that led to the tragedy. In an unusually attentive response, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao personally visited the hospital where the victims were being treated (he even apologized for being late, saying he had been sick in the hospital), and the Beijing National Railway Research Institute issued an unprecedented apology.
Those pesky internet tweeters and bloggers are almost impossible to control, and their numbers are likely to rise. China’s increasingly web-savvy population is complicating the lives of its political elite in interesting ways.