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No More Online Anti-Islam Terms Allowed on Weibo – but Discussions Continue Anyway

After various controversies, Chinese authorities have now blocked various Islam-related words by Chinese netizens on Weibo.

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Chinese authorities have recently blocked various Islam-related words invented by Chinese netizens. The ban comes after consecutive online controversies on the topic of Chinese Muslims and Islam in China; the tone of the discussions reportedly “undermines ethnic unity.”

Posts containing terms such as “green religion” and “peaceful religion,” or any other online terms relating to Islam or Muslims invented by Chinese netizens, are currently banned from Chinese social media.

Chinese state media outlet Global Times reports that the ban comes amid an online backlash against national policies which some deem “overly favorable to Muslim minorities.”

Anti-Islamic Sentiments on Weibo

Anti-Islamic sentiments have been on the rise on Weibo over recent years, and often peak when people disagree with alleged “affirmative discrimination policies” toward Chinese Muslim minorities. China has an estimated 23 million Muslims.

One such incident occurred in 2016, when a Chinese university introduced separate shower cabins for Muslim students that offered complete privacy, while the ordinary dorm showers are usually open.

The case triggered anger online, especially among students, of whom some wrote: “I also have the f**cking rule that nobody should see me shower, am I going to have an exclusive shower cabin now?”

In July, online reports about the introduction of ‘Halal Only’ food delivery boxes also evoked anger as it sparked discussions about the ‘halalifaction‘ of food in China.

Image of food delivery box that says “special use for halal food.”

A very recent incident involved a case where a girl was harassed by a Muslim man on the Bund in Shanghai. When her online report was taken offline, and police did not give out any background details about the suspect, Weibo users complained that religious sensitivities were placed above personal safety.

Another incident took place in Tangshan in early September, where an alleged altercation took place between Muslim minorities and local staff at a toll station. Online rumors about the incident triggered a wave of anti-Islam comments, and videos of the incident were soon after deleted from Chinese social media.

“The Green Religion”

On Chinese social media, Islam is often referred to as the “peaceful religion” (和平教) or the “green religion” (绿教). While the first is mostly meant sarcastically, the second comes from the importance of the color green in Islam and is meant to refer to the religion in a negative way.

In the same type of derisive, derogatory online speak, Muslims are often referred to as “the greens” (绿绿) on Weibo. ‘Greenification’ (绿化) is another online word, meaning ‘Islamization.’

At the time of writing, abovementioned online terms such as “green religion” or “peaceful religion” were all banned from Weibo’s search function and showed no results.

No search results for ‘green religion’ on Weibo.

In its recent article, Global Times quoted a Beijing professor in saying that “it is necessary to timely remove radical phrases that discriminate against Islam and are biased against Muslims to prevent worsening online hatred towards the group” and that these online terms “severely undermine religious harmony and ethnic unity.”

In a Global Times column earlier this week, editor Shan Renpin conveyed a similar message in saying that there “might be negative consequences” to the government’s “protection of the harmony with minority groups and religions,” but that “overall, if the authorities would not do it this way, the other negative consequences are likely to be more serious.” (“这样做确实有时会有负面效果,但是综合起来看,如果官方不这样做,另外的负面效果很可能更大.”)

Ongoing discussions: Halal Mooncake

Despite the recent ban on certain terms, Chinese netizens still find ways to discuss Islam-related controversies. On Friday, another topic triggered heated discussions regarding halal mooncakes.

With the Chinese national Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) holiday nearing, many people discussed how a Chinese university stated that all of their mooncakes (the traditional snack for this festival) will be halal in consideration for their Muslim students.

Beijing’s University Of International Business And Economics (对外贸易经济大学) issued a notice on September 22 (see below) regarding the mooncakes, saying “to respect the traditions of our Muslim students, all our mooncakes will be made from halal ingredients.”

The issue attracted hundreds of comments, with many saying: “Don’t these schools know that Muslims don’t even celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival?”

“Respect the Muslims – for this minority, we all have to eat halal.”

“Since when did the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival become a Muslim festival?”

Although much of the anger in this discussion is directed more so at the school’s organization (“Why does 99% of the people have to adapt for the 1%?”) than at its Muslim students, it does also include much hate speech towards Muslims in general.

One thing the latest controversy shows is that despite the fact that these discussions are now more heavily censored, their tone and terms are the same as before.

Although Global Times asserts that China’s “favorable policies” are intended to maintain ‘social harmony’ and accelerate ‘greater ethnic unity,’ most netizens commenting on these issues do not seem to be on the same page. Typical comments said: “How can they say we’re harming national unity by talking about Muslims?” and “I just don’t understand [..]. When did religion become a minority? Can a religion represent minorities?”

By Manya Koetse


Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bruce Humes

    September 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Good to see coverage here — in English — of issues and language relating to Islam currently under discussion on China’s Weibo in 2017.

    Censorship extends beyond social media, of course. Muslim fiction writers in China dare not touch upon a whole host of issues, particularly recent laws and regulations that tightly restrict Muslim dress and worship in Xinjiang.

    One result is an introspective sort of fiction writing in which Uyhgur authors turn the focus almost entirely on themselves, their families and the Uyghur community. A good example is Xinjiang’s Alat Asem (阿拉提·阿斯木). Han Chinese rarely figure in his Uyghur universe. Its hallmarks are serial womanizers, disparaging monikers, and a hybrid lingo with an appealing Central Asian flavor. His novel, Confessions of a Jade Lord (时间悄悄的嘴脸), will be published in English in 4Q 2017.

    Another Uyghur writer to watch is Patigül ((帕蒂古丽), whose novel One-hundred Year Bloodline (百年血脉, due out in 4Q 2017 too), is the semi-autobiographical saga of a Xinjiang woman of mixed Uyghur, Hui and Han extraction who marries a Han husband and moves to Zhejiang. Obviously, there are Han characters, but the spotlight is clearly on Uyghur and Hui personalities, and their struggle to maintain their distinct ethnic identity.

  2. Pingback: China’s genocidale projecten in westen logisch gevolg van agressief etno-nationalisme – Sense Hofstede

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China Media

Dutch Olympic Committee Warns Athletes Not To Bring Phones to China, Hu Xijin: “They’ve Watched Too Many Movies”

“These people are participating in the Winter Olympics as if they’re entering a cave with wolves and tigers.”

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News about Dutch Olympic athletes being advised by the country’s Olympic Committee not to bring their own smartphone or laptops to the Winter Olympics in China has become a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media.

On January 11, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant reported that NOCNSF, the umbrella organisation for sports in the Netherlands, issued a warning to partipating Dutch athletes that they should not bring their personal smartphones, tablets, or laptops with them to the Beijing Olympics to avoid Chinese espionage.

NOCNSF spokesman Geert Slot said cybersecurity was part of the risk assessment made but declined to further comment on specific measures. In the article, the advice is described as a “precautionary move” related to concerns over potential cybersecurity safety issues in China.

The Dutch CEO of security company Zerocopter, Erik Ploegmakers, calls the move a “very wise” one, referring to the difficulties of using a VPN within China and mentioning how all online traffic would flow via Chinese internet infrastructure, saying that “China is able to view and manipulate all internet traffic, ‘so you basically carry your past information with you,’ including old messages, training schedules, medical data, contact details, and photos.”

On Chinese social media site Weibo, Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进) commented on the Dutch ‘precautions.’ Until recently, Hu was also the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, and he has over 24 million followers on his Weibo account. He writes:

According to Dutch media reports, the Dutch Olympic Committee has called on Dutch athletes participating in next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing to leave their mobile phones and laptops at home to avoid having their personal information intercepted by Chinese surveillance systems. Last month, the Australian newsgroup quoted a Canberra security expert as saying foreign athletes’ movements and communication in China would all be monitored around the clock.

This cracks me up. These people are participating in the Winter Olympics as if they’re entering a cave with wolves and tigers. They’ve watched too many movies. Is this is how they look at China, which the IOC entrusted to serve athletes from all around the world? They must think they’re all that. Athletes are just common people once they’re off the field, what kind of intelligence value do they have? Even if a western athlete wanted to ‘defect’ and would shout out “I have information for you!”, the Chinese would probably still ask them to leave.

This entire issue reflects the degree to which Western public opinion has demonized China. It has eroded people’s common sense. How can China have the manpower and resources to build such a gigantic surveillance system? To do what? Western people are looking at China through an American lens. The Winter Olympics are mirroring the ghostly appearance of some Western extremist powers.

Ordinary Chinese people have a good impression of the Netherlands and welcome Dutch athletes to Beijing. The extremists should stop pouring cold water over the warm mutual friendship between the Dutch and Chinese people.

Hu’s post received over 7000 likes and hundreds of comments.

“Do people from around the world think we’re like North Korea or something?” one person responded. Another commenter wrote: “They’d better not come. All of our snowflakes are equipped with small 5G chips, they will be monitored as long as they participate, it’s mainly to see if they’ll pick up things to eat from the floor, to see what they do when it rains, and to check if their urine and stool is showing any irregularities and stuff.”

In other Weibo posts, users said: “I wonder what the Dutch and the Belgian people have to hide?”

The Belgian Interfederal Olympic Committee has also recommended that all Belgian athletes traveling to the Beijing Olympics leave personal laptops and smartphones at home.

The nationalistic blogger GuyanMuchan (@孤烟暮蝉), who has over 6 million Weibo fans, also responded to the issue, writing: “Ridiculous, this is just shameless. As an athlete, what kind of classified information do you have that China would steal from you? Are you all spies with a second identity?”

This is not the first time Dutch people are advised not to bring their regular smartphones or laptops with them to China. In 2018, before a Cabinet delegation went on a trade mission to China, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs also advised travelers to only bring devices without personal data to China. The same advice was also issued for those traveling to Russia, Iran, or Turkey.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Digital

Will Weibo Become 30% State-Media Owned?

Alibaba is allegedly ready to give up its Weibo shares to SMG.

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Bloomberg recently reported that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is preparing to sell its 30% stake in social media platform Weibo. According to people familiar with the matter, Alibaba is negotiating with the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG).

News about Alibaba planning to sell all of its Weibo shares has triggered some online discussions on the Chinese social media platform. Bloomberg was the first to report that the Chinese e-commerce and IT enterprise is talking to the state-owned Shanghai Media Group (SMG) to sell all of its 30% stake in Weibo.

According to Bloomberg, the move relates to regulators wanting to curb the influence of Chinese tech giants in the media sphere. The Bloomberg article claims that SMG, as one of China’s largest state-owned media and cultural conglomerates, stands a higher chance of gaining the approval of Chinese authorities than a private acquirer.

SMG is a large state-owned enterprise with over a dozen TV and radio stations, many newspapers and magazines, various drama & film production and distribution businesses, and more. The company has a major media influence, not only in Shanghai but throughout the country.

According to Weibo’s 2020 annual reports, New Wave held a 45% stake in Weibo, followed by Alibaba with its 30%. New Wave is the holding company by Weibo chairman Charles Chao.

“Weibo will change into another channel for SMG,” some Weibo users predict, with others also sharing their fear that Weibo would become more and more like a platform for official media (“微博现在越来越官方化”).

“This would be a big milestone in the crumbling of Alibaba’s media empire,” another commenter wrote. Some wonder if the developments have more to do with Weibo as a platform, or with Alibaba and its media influence.

In March of 2021, the Wall Street Journal already reported that the Chinese government asked the Alibaba Group to dispose of its media assets due to concerns over the company’s influence in the sensitive media sphere.

“When Alibaba exits and state-owned capital enters, Weibo is expected to magnificently transform into a ‘state-owned enterprise’,” another Weibo user wrote.

Although some commenters worry that Weibo will change for the worse and that there will be more censorship, others see a sunnier future for the social media platform: “It would be good for Weibo to be ‘state-owned’ so that it won’t be controlled by capital to influence public opinion anymore.”

Chinese tech site 36kr also reported about the issue on January 1st, but neither Weibo nor Alibaba or SGM have officially responded yet.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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