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Emperor Xi: Sensitive Words

Tuesday, 6 March, 2018

Background: A total of 21 proposed amendments to China’s constitution are expected to be adopted by the National People’s Congress in Beijing, and the one with the greatest impact on the future of national and regional politics deals with paragraph 3 of article 79, which would end the current limit of two five-year terms for the president. Deng Xiaoping introduced the two-term limit to prevent the madness that marked Mao Zedong’s reign, and with its removal, President Xi Jinping will be able to rule for life.

Once news of the impending change became public, China’s censors got to work and they’ve been particularly busy removing “sensitive words” from Sina Weibo, a popular platform with some 400 million users. So what’s being banned? Sample:

  • to board a plane: homophonous with “to ascend the throne”
  • Hongxian: Reign title of the short-lived monarchy led by Yuan Shikai, who declared himself the Hongxian Emperor. After popular disapproval and rebellion, Yuan abandoned the empire after 83 days
  • emigrate: Baidu searches for the word reportedly saw a massive spike
  • Another 500 Years for Heaven: Theme song for the CCTV series Kangxi
  • crooked-neck tree: The tree which the Chongzhen Emperor is believed to have hanged himself from

China Digital Times offers a rolling list of “Sensitive Words” that highlights the ones blocked from Sina Weibo search results. As well, there are links to media coverage of this expansion of Chinese tyranny. Example: Emperor Xi’s censors have no clothes by Fergus Ryan at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute blog.

Once upon a time, John Milton wrote, “With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat.” The desire for the “greater Man” will not bring bliss to the people of the People’s Republic, however. A new wave of repression is being enacted by a regime that increasingly resembles the one which now rules North Korea.

The emperor with feet of clay

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