Heard on Weibo – Xi Jinping’s visit to Iowa, Bo Xilai, and the taboo subject of fear

I came across a blog post yesterday that compares Weibo and Twitter, and the conclusion is that Weibo is not international and its power to promote change is limited. To that I will add that Weibo is really a glass house where it feels like you are free but you keep hitting the walls all the time. It is also becoming a mirror of the twisted world that China is, because, for example, while posts about what’s going on in the Tibetan area of Sichuan can result in a night visit by police (an artist friend of mine in Beijing emailed me on the 9th about being visited by four policemen the night before and taken to a station and warned of his posts about Tibetans), the insipid duel between Han Han (韩寒) and Fang Zhouzi (方舟子) could go on forever to become a national detective story. Still, Weibo has its power simply because things happen, words get out instantly before the censors catch up, like the night when 70 plus police cars surrounded the American Consulate in Chengdu. But the government is determined to have total control of whatever power is left of Weibo. Starting March 16, Weibo (regardless of provider) is required to implement total real-name registration. It remains to be seen how it will affect the online discourse, which is seriously flawed to begin with. One thing I can report at this point is that Twitter’s Chinese community is seeing an influx of newcomers.  

Referring to the “sing-red-and-crack-down-on-black (crime)” campaign (唱红打黑) led by Bo Xilai (薄熙来) in Chongqing:

  • 王金波@wangjinbo/ Wang Jin Bo/(dissident living in China)/:  “Singing revolutionary songs” is the lying part. “Cracking down on crimes” is the violence part. Therefore the so-called “sing-red-and-crack-down-on-black” campaign is the enhancement of lies and violence, the two bedrocks on which the totalitarian rule rests.

9:28 PM – 9 Feb 12 via web

Among Chinese intellectuals, activists, as well as concerned citizens, the debate is not whether China should change politically, but how it will. Will it be from bottom up or top down? Dissident intellectual Mo Zhixu, who on Twitter constantly warns against “illusionary hope” for top-down reform, gives his thoughts on bottom-up:   

  • 莫之许@mozhixu/Mo Zhixu/(Dissident intellectual)/: Establishing political parties, defending rights, signing 08 Charter, grass-mud-horse…. Any attempts for organization have been instantly crushed and people involved sentenced to heavy prison terms. It is impossible, under such circumstances, to build up grass-root pressure. Without it, there can be no such thing as bottom-up force. The ideas of bottom-up coercion and top-down reform both look pretty, but to a large degree, they are wishful thinking of those who have not participated in the actual struggle.

10:21 AM – 17 Feb 12 via Maverick Planet

  • 王功权/Wang Gongquan/(venture capitalist)/: If I say mainland Chinese are living in fear, many would say it’s a gross exaggeration and it’s sensationalism. But if I say mainland Chinese should start openly exploring the possibility and roadmap for forming organizations according to the Chinese Constitution that provides for freedom of association, right away, many people will think I am being too daring to say something like that. So sensitive a topic it is, that they will feel nervous about it. Do they live in fear or not?

Feb. 3 13:29  From Text Message  Repost (1734)| Comment(615)

Li Hai was a student leader during the June 4th movement. He was imprisoned for 9 years from 1995 to 2004 for investigating the status of hundreds of Beijing residents who were sentenced in the aftermath of June 4th:

  • lihai54李海/Li Hai/(dissident)/: When I went to college, I had never imagined anything like June 4th, 1989. Now I find it was meant to be and it had been waiting for me. Life stopped right there.

3 Feb Favorite Undo Retweet Reply


Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) in 1989, now a lawyer whose clients include Ai Weiwei.

Xu Zhirong is a rights lawyer and founder of the Open Constitutional Initiative (公民联盟), a short-lived NGO dedicated to providing legal assistance to the poor and the powerless that was shut down by the government in 2009, and Xu himself was jailed on ridiculous tax-evasion charges:

  • 许志永@zhiyongxu/Xu Zhiyong/: Today I went to the Supreme Court for the 47th time to appeal for this wrongful case in Chengde that has dragged on for 17 years. When I was taking a photo of the reception hall, a court police officer with ID number 010100 grabbed my cell phone, thrust me down on a chair, and dealt four slaps to my face. How could they treat an ordinary petitioner like this? How can they be so monstrous?

10:08 AM – 13 Feb 12 via web

Yesterday, many people in Twitter’s Chinese community retweeted a video clip of a protest scene in Iowa. My Chinese tweet of it has been retweeted so many times that it made the “hourly hot word” via @spotHour. Below is the English version of my tweet and link to the video:

  • Must watch! Smart, spirited Tibetan protesters challenging dumbfounded, speechless, IGNORANT pro-China students in Iowa!

It’s sad to watch these kids, but they deserve to be verbally pummeled.

Just as I was wrapping up this edition of Heard on Weibo, I was referred to another clip of the same scene. This one provides a broader shot of the scene with interviews of a young man who is a student at U of I and a Chinese woman who teaches mathematics in a university in Iowa. Let me just say I don’t want any of my children to be taught by her, not at all because I disagree with her.

11 responses to “Heard on Weibo – Xi Jinping’s visit to Iowa, Bo Xilai, and the taboo subject of fear”

  1. Vame says:

    The tweet concerning fear reminded me very much of ian buruma’s book ‘bad elements’ about chinese dissidents. In one episode, a singaporean woman ran away from a document she thought was subversive. That’s fear. I personally felt fear in china, it was like background noise. I decided not to serve it. Because, the fear is the state trying to get into you, it spreads fear deliberately, so that people will police themselves. Nationhood can be a very spiritual thing.

  2. Thanks, Yaxue, I just watched the second video. Free Tibet doesn’t mean Tibet independence, which Chinese govt made them equivalent, and demonize HH Dalai Lama. Human Rights situation in Tibet is extremely terrible right now.
    BTW, Al Jazeera corrected the small mistake you mentioned (thanks). I think their report reflect current status of social media in China fairly well: Censorship in China http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/censorship-china-0022043

  3. Yaxue C. says:

    February 20th is the first anniversary of China’s aborted “Jasmine” gathering outside a McDonald’s in Wangfujing, Beijing (北京王府井). For us watching from far, it was merely a news item that made rounds for a few days, but there are a lot of tweets about it on Twitter today, and I just read the account by a young man named Wei Qiang. So many people were arrested on the scene and off the scene, jailed, interrogated, tortured, forced to sign “guarantees”. Sounds familiar from Ge Xun’s episode? Except its ten times worse. It appeared that most of them were released now, but the violent and the fascist manner with which the Chinese government crushed this and any perceived threat is atrocious and must be exposed tirelessly.

  4. […] Corollary: “Starting March 16, Weibo (regardless of provider) is required to implement total real-name registration. It remains to be seen how it will affect the online discourse, which is seriously flawed to begin with. One thing I can report at this point is that Twitter’s Chinese community is seeing an influx of newcomers.” [Seeing Red in China] […]

  5. kingtubby1 says:

    @ Yaxue C. The PRC govt is many things, mostly bad, but it is definitely not a fascist or fascistic State.

    That sort of classification might play well with the peanut gallery, but it has little to do with the historical definition of fascism.

    Little wonder most people no longer taking Sino-English blogs seriously anymore.

    • Yaxue C. says:

      @kingtubby1: Read my statement carefully: “the violent and the fascist manner with which the Chinese government crushed this and any perceived threat…”

      If you read Chinese, go to this link to read this particular account, or Ge Xun’s account here for that matter, to see if my descritption is accurate.

      Speaking of exposing the atrocities of the Chinese government, the reason many people don’t seem to see it is precisely because the government does everything they can to hide it. Because of this, exposuring them take on an extra urgency.

      I appreciate your comments and have learned a lot from them. I don’t mind your occasional patranization if there is truth in it, but not when there isn’t.

      And even if you are every bit right in making this statement, you don’t have to trash all the Sino-English blogs so sweepingly (It doesn’t make you sound more credible than the people you trash). Many of them are incredibly high-quality and extremely edifying, as responsible as can be for what they say. If sometimes they seem to be more critical than people are used to from mainstream madia, that’s because these bloggers actually know better about China.

      • Tom says:

        Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek rejuvenation of their nation based on commitment to an organic national community where its individuals are united together as one people in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood through a totalitarian single-party state that seeks the mass mobilization of a nation through discipline, indoctrination, physical education, and eugenics.Fascism seeks to purify the nation of foreign influences that are deemed to be causing degeneration of the nation or of not fitting into the national culture. Fascism promotes political violence and war, as forms of direct action that create national regeneration, spirit and vitality. Fascists commonly utilize paramilitary organizations for violence against opponents or to overthrow a political system. Fascism opposes multiple ideologies: conservatism, liberalism, and two major forms of socialism—communism and social democracy. Fascism claims to represent a synthesis of cohesive ideas previously divided between traditional political ideologies. To achieve its goals, the fascist state purges forces, ideas, people, and systems deemed to be the cause of decadence and degeneration. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

  6. kingtubby1 says:

    “…So many people were arrested on the scene and off the scene, jailed, interrogated, tortured, forced to sign “guarantees”.
    I couldn’t agree more with you re the above.
    However, to characterise the CCP led govt as fascist or even fascistic is to drain the concept of its precise meaning and ignore the specific national contexts which birthed fascist movements and govenrnents in the last century.
    Wiki entries are handy quick references, but I would hesitate to rely on them if I was writing a p/g dissertation or even a book on the subject.
    Re: my sweeping statement. They are shared by a couple of other bloggers, so I suppose I am a member of a small majority. I would love to see a decent survey measuring the enlightenment – disenchantment continium among readers across a lot of sites.
    There is a project for you.
    In the main, Sino-English blogs in 2012 no longer add to the knowledge bank if you are willing to undertake a decent google China news search every 24 hours. How one interpretes that information is an entirely other issue.
    Anyway, the future success or failure of the CCP won’t be determined by HR advocates and their issues: it will hinge on economic issues addressed by bloggers such as Patrick Chovanec and Victor Shih. Complex non-sexy stuff dealing with numbers and percentages.

    • Yaxue C. says:


      “the future success or failure of the CCP won’t be determined by HR advocates and their issues: it will hinge on economic issues …”

      Many people are saying the same thing, and I totally agree since both top-down reform and bottom-up coercion, politically, seem to have been stamped out now in China, the real change probably will come when China’s economy collapses, and out of necessity, the nation will change out of the control of the Party. We shall see.

      Does that mean we should stop talking about human rights abuses because talking about and exposing them won’t help (not that I agree it won’t help)? Is that what you are saying? You feel bothered hearing the plight of rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, or Chen Guangcheng, or many others who in their roles try to promote fairness and rule of law and have been brutally persecuted? Do you prefer not knowing anything about it? These are simple yes or no questions.

      On a larger scale, you don’t want to think about what it means to have a country like China in the world in light of its human rights practices?

      In any case, I see absolute no reason why ecomonic discussions and human rights issues (including rule of law) have to be in an either/or situation, while, in fact, their connections are entwined and everywhere in evidence.

      Now, since you are so dismissive of our contribution to the knowledge bank about China, I just did a quick check-up: I googled “Chen Guangcheng”, “Around Town with Chen Guangcheng” and the Free CGC website I volunteer showed up on the second page of google; if you are more specific and google “Who is Chen Guangcheng”, then the profile I wrote in November shows up on page one, right there as the second result following the Wiki entry.

      As of now anyway.

      So, if someone on earth, who can only read English, wants to know something about CGC and google “Who is Chen Guangcheng,” he or she will likely be reading my profile. I think that’s a contribution. Don’t you think?

      I don’t resent the fact that you hold such contempt for me writing about human rights issues here on this site (after all an individual in this world does what he or she thinks is important and what’s in his or her capacity), because you are just one of many thousands hits on this site and don’t represent others. What I do resent is the fact that you are so quick to make sweeping statements about things you may not like.

  7. Yaxue C. says:

    I am not an economist, and I think by now everybody knows 🙂 That’s the only reason I am not talking about numbers and percentages, not because I don’t respect economics. Thank goodness that I don’t talk about things I don’t know too much about 🙂

    @kingtubby1 seems to suggest it’s sexy to talk about human rights issues. Is it? If so, why do I sometimes feel like screaming: GET BETTER! CHINA! I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR STINKY HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES ANYMORE. I AM FED UP!

  8. […] last week’s Heard on Weibo, we offered two video clips of the Iowa welcome/protest scene. The young man, who is interviewed in […]

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