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国殇 (Martyrs of the Nationguóshāng) was a documentary TV series broadcasted by the Hong Kong-based Sun TV in September 2010. It chronicled the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), with particular focus on the role that the Koumintang (KMT)—the Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek that ruled over China during the War—played in defeating the Japanese.

Why it is blocked: Before the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the KMT waged a ruthless campaign to wipe out the Communists. However, when confronted with the Japanese invasion, the two sides mutually decided (due partially to patriotism, due partially to the Communists kidnapping Chiang Kai-shek and forcing him to end his purge of the Communists) to form an alliance. After the defeat of the Japanese, the two sides resumed their civil war, with the Communists eventually winning in 1949 and the KMT fleeing to Taiwan.

Though the KMT suffered 3 million casualties during the Second Sino-Japanese War (the numerically smaller Communists suffered roughly 500,000) and spearheaded many of the major battles, the KMT’s role in the victory has been relegated to a secondary position or intentionally overlooked in modern mainland historical narratives and textbooks. A September 3, 2010 People’s Daily editorial wrote:

The victory in the War of Resistance to Japan gives an eloquent proof that CPC is the force at the core that has saved the Chinese nation from subjugation and realized the nationwide liberation.

Thus, a film like Martyrs of the Nation which questions the notion that it was the Communist Party that chiefly led China to victory would undoubtedly be looked upon unkindly by the mainland government, which of course is led almost exclusively by the CCP. (Even though nominal opposition parties, including a form of the KMT, technically exist, they hold no real power.)

The PRC had already blocked Sun TV’s right to broadcast to the mainland in 2009, so the series was only available to mainland viewers via DVDs or online. All 40 episodes are available for free on Sun TV’s YouTube channel.

自由花 (“The Flower of Freedom” / “Zìyóuhuā”) is a Cantonese song written by Hong Kong lyricist Thomas Chow to commemorate the victims of June 4, 1989. He set the lyrics to the popular Taiwanese song “Sailor” by Zheng Zhihua.

Why it is blocked: It is sung every year by those who attend the June 4 vigil at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park (see page 50). From the chorus:

But there is a dream, it will not die, remember it!
No matter how hard the rain falls, freedom still will bloom.
There is a dream, it will not die, remember this!

It may also be sensitive because it is a homophone for liberalization (自由化 / zìyóuhuà), an economic and social policy contested within the Communist Party (read Yuezhi Zhao’s “Challenging Neoliberalism?” in Communication in China for more about the New Western Hills Meeting controversy).

我沒有敵人 (“I Have No Enemies” / wǒ méiyǒu dírén) is a speech written by jailed dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Liu was arrested in December 2008 just before the release of Charter 08, a document he co-authored calling for various political and legal reforms in China. He was formally charged in June 2009 on charges of “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power” and was tried on December 23, 2009. He was convicted and began serving an 11-year sentence four years ago, today.

Why it is blocked: “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement” was a prepared speech Liu read to the court during his trial. However, after 14 minutes, the judge cut him off, saying Liu had used up his allotted time. The full speech was published and widely circulated online in Chinese in January 2010 and gained even more prominence when it was read aloud in English by actress Liv Ullmann during the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony (video: part 1 | part 2).

Though Liu decries the supposed crimes for which he has committed and maintains his innocence, it is not an angry rant. Liu primarily takes on a martyr’s role: sticking to his ideals, accepting his fate as a victim, thanking his prosecutors and judges for their decency during the trial, and noting with optimism that change is on the horizon. Liu then addresses his wife, Liu Xia:

Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.

The speech is part-love letter, part-reflection on Liu’s past, part-manifesto. I’ll cite a few notable passages, but it should be read in full (HRIC translation | David Kelly translation):

When I think about it, my most dramatic experiences after June Fourth have been, surprisingly, associated with courts: My two opportunities to address the public have both been provided by trial sessions at the Beijing Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, once in January 1991, and again today. Although the crimes I have been charged with on the two occasions are different in name, their real substance is basically the same - both are speech crimes. […]

But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my “June Second Hunger Strike Declaration” twenty years ago ‑ I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.

Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as i look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love. […]

I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech. Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth. In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints. Thank you, everyone.

九一一袭击 (the September 11 attacksjiǔyīyī xíjī) were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks upon the United States on September 11, 2001.

Why it is blocked: China has been battling its own Muslim rebels, which it labels terrorists, in its Western provinces. Chinese citizens and leaders generally expressed great sympathy and condolences to the United States, but the the combination of violence, religion, and America make this a sensitive topic, regardless of China’s avowed alignment with the U.S. on The War on Terror post-9/11.

Note: Though the term was blocked when it was checked in November 2011, it has since been unblocked–a reminder that the line between sensitive and not is always shifting.

老胡同 (old hutonglǎo hútòng) is an urban feature found in the historic districts of several Chinese cities, most notably in Beijing. Hutongs are literally the narrow streets or alleys in these old neighborhoods, some of which trace their roots back to nearly a thousand years ago, but hutongs now generally refer to these old neighborhoods themselves and the distinctive style of architecture and traditional culture held within.

Why it is blocked: Hutongs stand as a marked contrast to the new commercial and dense residential buildings found in cities across China. Not surprisingly, hutongs have been the source of numerous controversies, especially in recent years as urban development in China continues. The destruction of hutongs, which admittedly has been ongoing for centuries in China, received particular attention in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, for which city officials razed numerous old neighborhoods in order to build infrastructure and modern buildings. It was reported that citizens who were ordered to vacate their homes were undercompensated, and the loss of history was mourned by local residents, preservationists, netizens, and tourists alike. It is this combination of citizens protesting the loss of their homes–and as with any story about land grabs in China, a whiff of corruption between city officials and the developers who stand to profit the most also hangs in the air–and foreign media attention that causes 老胡同 to be a sensitive term.

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credit: Sean Gallagher

Updated Jan 30: The peerless Brendan O'Kane smartly points out that 老胡同 could simply be a mocking nickname for Hu Jintao, in which case 老胡同 would translate to Old Comrade Hu. I wasn’t aware if this nickname was popularly used, but even if not, this would not be the first time an incredibly obscure reference to an official was blocked because it was insulting. However, a little sleuthing reveals that it has been used, although apparently not always in a mocking fashion. Some of the references appear genuine (though how much irony is being lost on me, I don’t know since one would have to be part of the community to really get if it’s an in-joke or not.)

Another theory (though as @bokane notes, it’s not quite grammatical): It could also be an abbreviation for 胡锦涛老同志, that is Hu Jintao’s old comrades (同 might also be short for 同学, classmate). In that case, 老胡同 would be a criticism of the Communist Party patronage system, wherein top officials promote and appoint their longtime friends, business partners, and classmates. Hu Jintao wasn’t quite as notorious as some top leaders for bringing his old-boy’s network with him to the top (or perhaps he wasn’t as successful at it as Jiang Zemin, whose Shanghai Clique ruled much of Chinese government and business throughout his time in power), but the so-called Youth League Faction was seen as Hu’s base of support. Though Hu Jintao and numerous other top officials are now technically unblocked from searching on Weibo, many combinations of the surnames of Hu, Wen (Jiabao), and Xi (Jinping) with other words are blocked still, and 老胡同 would fit that pattern.

七宗罪 (seven deadly sinsqī zōng zuì) are a category of vices that according to Catholic teachings threaten a person with eternal damnation. They are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. The phrase was blocked on Weibo until October 2012, at which point it was unblocked. It remains searchable to this day.

Why it is blocked: At the time I was writing my book in 2012, I theorized that the word might be related to religious sensitivity or some other moral issue, but otherwise was quite mystified as to the specific reason for the censorship. However, while reading Emily Parker’s Now I Know Who My Comrades Are, I finally connected the dots: in the book, she interviews numerous Chinese bloggers and activists, including Michael Anti. She notes that in 2002, Anti, who was fed up with traditional Chinese news media, wrote a guide for aspiring reporters entitled Manual for New Journalists (新新闻人自学手册), which included exhortations like:

After we’ve said ‘F**ck’ to the giant media system we can begin our individual journeys through the desert to become new journalists. Maybe we won’t successfully reach the Holy Land of freedom of the press, but at least we will leave the enslavement of truth. (translation from Parker)

The guide included an appendix (也谈中国新闻记者七宗罪 | Sina mirror) that listed the “seven deadly sins” of Chinese reporters: ignorance, cowardice, thirst for power, naïveté, pride, low self-esteem, and despair. The “seven deadly sins” are thus not related to any religious improprieties, but rather the moral failures Chinese journalists should watch out for. The “seven deadly sins” appendix along with the other documents in the manual serve as a passionate attack on traditional Chinese news media and a call for a new generation of journalists to take their place–criticism that authorities no doubt did not look kindly upon.

Note: If you are interested in digital activism, I highly recommend you take a look at Emily Parker’s Now I Know Who My Comrades Are, out next week. I hope to write more about it later, but suffice it to say it’s an insightful look at how some bloggers and activists in China, Cuba, and Russia are using the Internet. Filled with interviews of these folks on the front lines, it was an especially good palate cleanser for me after reading Evgeny Morozov’s To Save Everything, Click Hereyet she also does a very good job acknowledging the limitations of the Internet and those who utilize it. Clearly, as evidenced by this post, I learned a lot from it.

雪山狮子旗 (snow lion flag  / xuěshān shīzi qí) was the state and military flag of Tibet. It has six red bands representing the six original ancestors of Tibet, a rising sun over a mountain, the three-colored jewel of the Buddha, and a pair of snow lions, Tibet’s national emblem. Though it was the official flag of Tibet, it was rarely used before 1959, when China took control of the region.

Why it is blocked: After the failed Tibetan rebellion of 1959, the Dalai Lama went into exile. The snow lion flag soon came to represent the Tibetan independence movement and is now a well-known symbol of the Free Tibet movement. The flag is no longer recognized by China, as it is considered an affront to its sovereignty over Tibet.

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This post comes from my book Blocked on Weibo, which contains nearly a hundred new entries documenting the kinds of keywords suppressed on social media in China. You can order online now at your favorite online store or pick it up at your local bookstore next week. Thanks again for supporting this blog!

Photo source: AFP/Getty Images via WSJ

On March 1, an organized group of knife-wielding attackers indiscriminately stabbed passengers at a railway station in the Chinese city of Kunming. Over 140 were injured and 33 were reported killed. Suspicions on Weibo and state media turned to Uyghur separatists from the northwestern province of Xinjiang. China Digital Times reported that the government had issued the following directive to news organizations:

Media may publish a moderate amount of criticism and Internet commentary which oppose terrorism and violence and which condemn the killers. However, do not hype this incident.

The following word combinations are found to be currently blocked from searching on Weibo:

  • 恐怖 + 新疆 (terrorist + Xinjiang / has been blocked in past)
  • 砍杀儿童 (children stabbed and killed / also connected to other past incidents)
  • 新疆 + 昆明火车站 (Xinjiang + Kunming train station)
  • 穆斯林 + 昆明火车站 (Muslim + Kunming train station)
  • 维族 + 昆明火车站 (Uyghur + Kunming train station)
  • 东突 + 昆明火车站 (East Turkestan Liberation Organization + Kunming train station)

Note: 昆明火车站 (Kunming train station) on its own is searchable.

王雪梅 (Wang Xuemei) is a top legal medical expert in the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and vice-chairman of the Chinese Forensic Medicine Association. She appeared regularly in print and TV programs, in which she has been given the rather unique title of China’s “most beautiful forensic pathologist.” She resigned from the CFMA in Aug 2013, appearing in a YouTube video in which she disputed the autopsy findings in a case where the electrocution of the Beijing university student Ma Yue in 2010 was declared to be an accident (more suspicion arose when ten minutes of surveillance footage were discovered to have been deleted). She said in a statement on Ma’s mother’s Weibo page, “I can’t tolerate that my name, Wang Xuemei, is confused with an organization producing such ridiculous and irresponsible forensic conclusions.”

Why it is blocked: While publicly questioning the conclusions of colleagues, who are prone to political and police pressure, in the case of a student’s death is sensitive enough, western media emphasized the fact that she had also criticized the government’s findings in a much more high-profile death: that of British businessman Neil Heywood. While Chinese courts convicted Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai, for poisoning Heywood with cyanide drops, Wang contested this account, declaring in Sept 2012 that based on her review of public documents that Heywood’s death was not consistent with a cyanide poisoning, and that he was perhaps killed for his secret dealings with the Bo family.

Though folks speculated that despite the fact that Wang cited the Ma Yue case as triggering her resignation, the timing of her announcement–just days before the start of Bo Xilai’s trial–may have been intentional and designed to further publicize her doubts regarding Heywood’s death.

According to my tests, Wang’s name was unblocked as recently as Aug 17 (it was the only keyword from the China Chats list to have been found newly blocked between Aug and Sept 2013), and according to GreatFire, it was first detected to be blocked on Aug 30. While it is tempting to attribute the blocking of her name to the lightning rod that is Bo Xilai, an excellent piece from Tea Leaf Nation notes how the Ma Yue case resonated with Weibo users, who applauded Wang for fighting back against yet another apparent medical cover-up, a hot topic especially after the July beating death of a Hunan watermelon seller by chengguan that was officially declared to be caused by a heart attack outraged netizens. The article also notes Wang’s history of casting doubt on official accounts, and her past role as a source of integrity and skeptic of the system no doubt caused her name to be placed on the China Chats sensitive keyword list in the first place.

This post isn’t in my book Blocked on Weibo, which documents the kinds of keywords suppressed on social media in China, but 150 others like it are. You can order online now at your favorite online store or pick it up at your local bookstore. Thanks again for supporting this blog!

蒋彦永 (Jiang Yanyong) is a Chinese physician from Beijing who publicized a coverup of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in China in 2003. Jiang was the chief physician of the 301* Military Hospital in Beijing.

Why it is blocked: The CCP had imposed a media blackout on SARS reporting since the first reported cases in late 2002. Jiang’s decision in April 2003 to email revelations about the severity of the crisis to the media and the subsequent leaking of the memo to Time caused him to be detained by the state. He re-entered the spotlight in 2009 when he submitted a letter to Hu Jintao demanding an apology as well as a re-examination of the 1989 Tian'anmen crackdown.

*301 in Chinese characters (三〇一) is also blocked. However, “301” and “三零一” (with the alternative Chinese method for writing the digit “0”) are unblocked.

秘书帮 (secretary gangmìshu bāng): the secretaries in question are not your typical clerical workers, but the powerful party secretaries and protégés of embattled retired Politburo member Zhou Yongkang. In the past week, two more close political associates of Zhou’s were detained for investigation for “serious violation of discipline” (a euphemism for corruption) by the CCP’s Discipline Committee. After a pair of China Business Journal articles popularly described the group as a “secretary gang,” the term is now found in articles in local papers, Baidu Baike, and even the official China Youth Daily. “Secretary gang” is also a sort of reference to the Shanghai gang, a term used to criticize former president Jiang Zemin’s close allies, who were also accused of corruption.

Why it is blocked: And while none of the articles make direct mention of Zhou Yongkang’s name it appears that Zhou is being methodically prepared for a downfall. (Update: As of February 27, a Baidu Baike user edited the article’s oblique reference about “a certain retired member of the standing committee” to Zhou directly; one wonders how quickly that version will stay.) The investigation of Zhou, who is already reportedly under house arrest, is drawing intense scrutiny from domestic and foreign observers as to how far Xi Jinping is willing to crack down on corruption at even the highest levels of the Party—or use the charge as a fig leaf to take down someone who was once Bo Xilai’s most ardent supporter. 

While blocking a politician’s name is often about protecting them from criticism, one might argue that in this case the government is less concerned with protecting Zhou than with controlling any sort of discussion that might spring up from an opening up of Zhou’s misdeeds for public discussion. The government’s crackdown last summer on online rumors—which included the targeting of journalists and anti-corruption watchdogs who were once encouraged by authorities—shows that officials are still incredibly wary of the unpredictable nature of Internet discourse.

新天地 (Xintiandi, literally “New Heaven and Earth”) is an affluent car-free shopping, eating and entertainment district in Shanghai, China. It is composed of an area of reconstituted traditional shikumen (“stone gate”) houses on narrow alleys.

Why it is blocked: Not sure. There were protests there back in the late-90s when developers Disney-fied the historic neighborhood, but outside of a minor incident in June, things seem quiet there. Perhaps this is related to the blocking of numerous public spaces because of “Occupy” fears.

江泽民 (Jiang Zemin) is a former Chinese politician, who served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China from 1989 to 2002 and as President of the People’s Republic of China from 1993 to 2003.

Why it is blocked: A number of leaders and politicians’ names are banned on Weibo, presumably to prevent insults and virtual paint splattering. Though Jiang has been out of power since 2005 (though he still attended NPC meetings up until 2008), rumors that he was dead pushed Weibo in July to censor all searches with the character 江. Fortunately, one is able to search for rivers again, but Jiang’s full name is still banned. [Status - 12/7/11, 2/5/12, 3/12/12: blocked]

万武义 (Wan Wuyi) is the director of domestic news at Xinhua, the state news agency.

Why it is blocked: Though a number of CCP leaders and politicians are blocked on Weibo, it may seem odd for a common bureaucrat–albeit a high level one–to merit the same treatment. However, Wan made headlines in 2010 when the Telegraph reported he had possibly defected during a training trip in the UK. Though Wan immediately came out and dispelled the rumors, claiming that back pain had delayed his return trip home, commenters had a field day with the story.

月月鸟 (literally, “every month bird" / yuèyuèniǎo) is code for Li Peng (李鹏), the former Premier of China and second highest-ranking politician in the CCP during the 1990s. He promoted projects like the controversial Three Gorges Dam and was an ardent opponent of the economic liberalization programs supported by Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang, eventually helping to orchestrate Zhao’s downfall in 1989…

Why it is blocked: …a downfall brought about because of a significant event in 1989: the Tian'anmen Square protests. Li was a strong advocate for using force to end the protests, again opposing Zhao, who was more conciliatory toward the students. Li further bolstered his reputation among the protesters as their primary villain during a nationally televised broadcast meeting with student leaders, who demanded that the government retract the April 26 editorial, a document Li was very influential in drafting. Li openly scorned the students, interrupting them and flatly rejecting their demands. Eventually, he was able to build a case against Zhao, and on June 4, troops marched on the square, a decision which some citizens still curse him for to this day. A book of Li Peng’s supposed diary entries entitled The Critical Moment was planned for release in 2010, but it was halted just before publication. In it, Li justifies many of his most vilified acts and emphasizes that it was a group decision to enter the square. Observers speculated it was an attempt by him to recover his legacy before he died and others suggested that Beijing forced the Hong Kong publisher of the book to stop because it reflected badly on the leaders then in power, including Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao.

月月鸟 are the three components of Li Peng’s given name, 鹏. Though 鹏 itself isn’t blocked on Weibo (his full name 李鹏 is blocked), I guess the censors assume that you must be up to no good if you’re using 月月鸟 as a sort of code to write about Li Peng, and thus those three characters which stand in for his name are blocked.

打黑 + 薄 (smash the black / dǎhēi + the surname for Bo Xilai / ) is a reference to Bo Xilai’s 2009-2011 campaign to rid the city of Chongqing of organized crime. In Chinese, it’s known as “重庆打黑除恶专项行动” (literally, Chongqing’s fight against illegal activities and elimination of evil forces special operation) and it’s also referred to as the Chongqing gang trials in English.

Why it is blocked: Chongqing is a sprawling major city in China’s interior, home to nearly 30 million people in an area the size of South Carolina. Before Bo Xilai’s arrival in Chongqing as party secretary (the de facto head of the city), organized crime was endemic in the city, with gangs running illegal underground activity and bribing police and government officials at all levels.

When Bo took office, he vowed to tackle organized crime and corruption and gave his police chief, Wang Lijun great latitude in attacking the problem.Thousands were arrested and Bo was celebrated for his seemingly successful triad busting. However, numerous questions have arisen about the way those arrests and convictions were made, with the most notorious being the case of Li Zhuang. Li, a much respected lawyer, defended some of those arrested in the crackdown, earning the wrath of authorities. One of whose clients was forced to falsely testify against him in an obvious frameup, and Li was convicted and imprisoned.

Since then of course, Bo and his police chief have experienced a spectacular fall from grace and the afterglow of busting the triads has been lost amid stories about tortured witnesses and false confessions. It was claimed that Bo and his associates even extorted rivals by threatening to target them next. Bo was recently convicted and sentenced to life in prison for numerous crimes, including those related to his handling of the crackdown in Chongqing, and Wang Lijun was sentenced to 15 years for abuse of power in his role in the campaign.

Note: Searching for 大黑 or 薄 on its own is ok, but if you have both words in your search query, it will be blocked. (The plus is not necessary.)

地铁涨价方案 (subway price increase plan / dìtiě zhǎngjià fāng'àn) refers to Beijing’s plan to shift its subway fares from the current rate of 2 yuan per trip (roughly 30 cents) to a distance-based price system. Beijing has among the cheapest subway fares in China, and the system is heavily subsidized by the state, with the government claiming they lose 5 yuan on every trip.

Why it is blocked: The plan was floated in late 2013, igniting outcry among subway users online after forthcoming price adjustments were officially confirmed in March of this year. The story picked up steam again last week when a photograph of a supposed document outlining the specific price increases was circulated. The alleged document stated that short trips would rise to 3 yuan, and long trips would be capped at 5 yuan.

However, while previous discussion of the price increases show results that appear to have been mostly uncensored, with large numbers of posts criticizing the plan (though a fair number do support it, arguing that the increases may reduce the subway’s notorious overcrowding), posts sharing this new document were censored according to Free Weibo. Authorities quickly denounced the document and stated that pricing plans were still being evaluated. Not all posts containing the photo of the document were deleted: for instance, this one from China Daily, a state newspaper, were allowed to stand as they contained a message refuting the document.

No doubt, Beijing authorities are very sensitive to the potential for increasing unrest surrounding the issue, which gets at the rising income inequality in the city. (More about this in my WSJ article.)

徐勤先 (Xu Qinxian) was a Major General in the Chinese PLA and the commander of the 38th Army during the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. He famously refused an order to forcefully eject the students from the square when martial law was declared and was subsequently stripped of his command and jailed for five years

Why it is blocked: Xu’s insubordination during the crackdown was not unique among soldiers, many of whom were sympathetic to the protester’s cause. However, his is the most prominent case, though it was not reported on within China.

三色猫 (Tortoishell cat or calico cat / sansemao, literally: “tri-color cat”)

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Why it is blocked: Actually, a search for any colored cat, so long as it uses the term “色貓” is blocked. This is a reference to Deng’s famed 1961 proverb in favor of market reforms: “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice it’s good” (不管黑猫白猫能捉到老鼠的就是好猫, or something similar: searching for the term shows several variations). Perhaps the term was previously used to mock the current system of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Regardless, it is now apparently a sensitive topic (though you can freely perform a search for Deng’s proverb itself).

元老 (yuánlǎo) is a term for a veteran or old leader, but in the context of the Chinese Communist Party, it refers to the Eight Elders. These senior leaders, headed by Deng Xiaoping, held substantial power during the 1980s and 1990s. In the English-speaking world, these men are often sarcastically called The Eight Immortals.

Why it is blocked: Though the Eight Elders were not the heads of state and were not recognized as an official body in the Constitution, major decisions had to be run through them. During the June 4 demonstrations, it was the Elders who drove Politburo discussions which eventually led to the crackdown. A new wave of elders (including Jiang Zemin) has since replaced the original eight, but they do not wield the power that the 1980s and 90s body once did. [Status - 11/17/11: blocked; 2/5/12, 3/12/12: unblocked]