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On 30th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Protests, Weibo Completely Cracks Down on the T-Word

The T-word is the taboo subject, but not for the State Office.

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Nobody can mention the T-word on social media this week, except for the State Council Information Office.

It is the time of the year that censorship on Chinese internet intensifies, and this year the date carries even more weight, as it marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen student protests that started in April 1989 and ended with the violent crackdown on June 4th of that year.

What is noticeable about this anniversary on Weibo this year? Whereas certain combinations of ‘Tiananmen’ together with ‘protests’ or ‘6.4’ are always controlled on the social media site, searching for the Chinese word ‘Tiananmen’ now only shows a series of media posts about the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China (#庆祝新中国成立70年#).

The posts all come from Chinese (state) media outlets and mention the word ‘Tiananmen’ in it, with different state media outlets all posting the same post after the other starting from Monday night local time (e.g. one posts at 19:35, the other at 19:36, 19:45, etc).

The post is a press release from the State Council Information Office that for the first time now shares the official logo to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

The logo is the number “70” and the National Emblem of the People’s Republic of China, which contains in a red circle a representation of Tiananmen Gate and the five stars of the national flag. The word ‘Tiananmen’ is mentioned twice in the official state media Weibo posts.

Earlier on Monday, shortly before the press release, searching for ‘Tiananmen’ on Weibo showed that there were over 18 million posts containing the word ‘Tiananmen,’ but when clicking the results page, it suddenly showed that there were “no results” at all, suggesting a complete shutdown of searches for this term.

The hashtag page for #Tiananmen# (#天安门#) also comes up with zero results at time of writing.

For more on this subject, also read: Tiananmen Without the Tanks – The 1980s China Wants to Remember and the interview with musician Jeroen den Hengst, who was in Beijing in 1989.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

Confusion over Official Media Report on China’s “Next Five Years” of Zero Covid Policy

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‘The next five years’: four words that flooded Chinese social media today and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as written proof that China’s current Covid strategy would continue for at least five more years. But the Beijing Daily editor-in-chief has since responded to the issue, blaming reporters for getting it all mixed up.

On June 27th, after the start of the 13th Beijing Municipal Party Congress, Chinese state media outlet Beijing Daily (北京日报) published an online news article about a report delivered by Beijing’s Party chief Cai Qi (蔡奇).

The article zoomed in on what the report said about Beijing’s ongoing efforts in light of China’s zero-Covid policy, and introduced Beijing’s epidemic prevention strategy as relating to “the coming five years” (“未来五年”).

Those four words then flooded social media and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years. Many people wrote that the idea of living with the current measures for so many years shocked and scared them.

Soon after, the article suddenly changed, and the controversial “coming five years” was left out, which also led to speculation.

Beijing Times editor-in-chief Zhao Jingyun (赵靖云) then clarified the situation in a social media post, claiming that it was basically an error made due to the carelessness of reporters who already filled in information before actually receiving the report:

I can explain this with some authority: the four-word phrase “the next five years” was indeed not included in the report, but was added by our reporter[s] by mistake. Why did they add this by mistake? It’s funny, because in order to win some time, they dismantled the report’s key points and made a template in advance that “in the next five years” such and such will be done, putting it in paragraph by paragraph, and also putting in “insist on normalized epidemic prevention and control” without even thinking about it. This is indeed an operational error at the media level, and if you say that our people lack professionalism, I get it, but I just hope that people will stop magnifying this mistake by passing on the wrong information.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, also weighed in on the incident in a social media post on Monday. He started his post by saying that the reporter who initially made the phrase ‘next five year’ go viral had a “lack of professionalism” which caused the overall misunderstanding.

Hu also added a photo of the relevant page within the original report that was delivered at the Congress, showing that the phrase ‘the coming five years’ was indeed not written before the segment on China’s battle against Covid, which detailed Beijing’s commitment to its strict epidemic prevention and control measures.

But Hu also added some nuance to the confusion and how it came about. The original report indeed generally focuses on Beijing developments of the past five years and the next five years, but adding the “in the next five years” phrase right before the segment was a confusing emphasis only added by the reporter, changing the meaning of the text.

Hu noted that the right way to interpret the report’s segment about China’s Covid battle is that it clarifies that the battle against the virus is not over and that China will continue to fight Covid – but that does not mean that Beijing will stick to its current zero Covid policy for the next five years to come, including its local lockdowns and restrictions on movement.

Hu Xijin wrote:

I really do not believe that the city of Beijing would allow the situation as it has been for the past two months or so go on for another five years. That would be unbearable for the people of Beijing, it would be too much for the city’s economy, and it would have a negative impact on the whole country. So it’s unlikely that Beijing would come up with such a negative plan now, and I’m convinced that those in charge of managing the city will plan and strive to achieve a more morale-boosting five years ahead.”

After the apparent error was set straight, netizens reflected on the online panic and confusion that had erupted over just four words. Some said that the general panic showed how sensitive and nervous people had become in times of Covid. Others were certain that the term “next five years” would be banned from Weibo. Many just said that they still needed time to recover from the shock they felt.

“The peoples’ reactions today really show how fed up everyone is with the ‘disease prevention’ – if you want to know what the people think, this is what they think,” one Weibo user from Beijing wrote.

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health & Science

“Experts Are Advised Not to Advise”: Why Weibo Users Are Fed Up with ‘Expert Advice’

Experts say this, experts say that, but many social media users wish experts would say nothing at all.

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Over the past week, the topic of “experts are advised not to advise” (建议专家不要建议) has been trending on Chinese social media. The topic came up after netizens got annoyed over a bunch of news items containing contradicting or ungrounded advice and suggestions from ‘experts.’

One column published by Worker’s Daily stated that three different expert advice topics went trending on Weibo on the very same day, on May 19: “Experts recommend young people not to spend all of their family money on a downpayment for a house,” “Experts advise buying a house is more profitable than renting,” and “Experts suggest that from June to October is the best time to buy a house.”

‘Expert advice’ goes trending on Chinese social media on a daily basis in hashtags. The source is mostly Chinese state media quoting an expert’s opinion on a certain topic.

Looking at some Weibo hashtags including the ‘experts suggest that..’ sentence include: “Experts advise to go to bed between 10 and 11 pm”, “Experts suggest not to eat too much at night,” and “Experts advise not to do new year’s resolutions in January,” “Experts recommend not to wait to drink water until you’re thirsty,” “Experts advise to release the ‘Three Child Policy’ asap”, “Experts suggest that eating too many mandarin oranges will turn the skin yellow,” “Experts advise single rural men to move to the city,” “Experts recommend retirement age to be set to 65,” “Experts advise national exam’s foreign language subjects to change into a chosen subjects,” “Experts advise not to use air fryers too much,” and many, many more.

According to this Weibo column, the most common topics that experts give their recommendations about are eating and drinking, sleep, childbearing, education, retirement, women’s issues, young people, and housing.

“Advise experts not to advise” sign (Image via CFP供图, Bwanjia)

The main reasons why people are getting tired of ‘expert advice’ headlines are that alleged expert views are often used by (state) media to publicize their own standpoints or views. Others are also concerned that some ‘experts’ are only speaking out on certain topics because they are getting paid for it, and then many people think that self-proclaimed experts are giving unfounded advice.

Another reason why expert advice is becoming much-dreaded is that experts are often giving contradicting advice. Instead of being helpful, their recommendations are only confusing to readers, and they only lose more trust in experts because of it.

The distrust in “experts advise” news became all the bigger when one ‘expert’ quoted in a news item by Lizhi News about the risks of using air fryers posted on Weibo herself that she was never interviewed and never even said anything about the topic at all.

By now, the hashtag “Advise Experts Not to Give Advice” (#建议专家不要建议#) has been viewed over 930 million times on Weibo.

“I advise the media not to use one expert after the other just to spread their own views,” one commenter says, with another person writing: “First of all, is there an academic degree for being an expert? Or is it a title? Is it based on years of experience, does it require an assessment? (..) Why is it that every time someone opens their mouth you say they’re an “expert” without first giving a clear account of the person’s life and background?”

“Jus advise experts not to advise anymore,” another commenter writes.

But not longer after the online discussions, Chinese media outlets started their ‘experts suggest..’ posts again, leading to the creation of a whole new hashtag: “Here come the experts again!” (#专家又来建议了#).

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Image via Weibo

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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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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