Chinese censors clamp down on internet buzz over Liu Xiaobo
Chinese censors moved rapidly today to extinguish a flickering buzz about Liu Xiaobo, the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace prize, from the Chinese internet.
Chinese internet users hit upon the idea of using the phrase “empty chair” to refer to Mr Liu, a reference to the empty chair that will represent him at today’s Nobel ceremony.
The phrase became one of the most popular trends among Chinese micro-bloggers on Twitter. “I hope when a new China is established, the Nobel committee will send us the empty chair so it can be remind us of our hard-earned freedom and peace,” said one user.
However censors quickly intervened to block it from Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, Renren, its version of Facebook, and other leading websites. “Empty stool”, “Empty table” and “Empty seat” were all also blocked by twitchy censors.
On Twitter, which is used by a relatively small proportion of Chinese, a number of commentators made fun of reports that the government had asked some restaurants not to accept any bookings for groups of more than six tonight, in fear that people might gather to celebrate Mr Liu’s award.
“One of my colleagues called a restaurant to ask to book three tables for his mother’s 80th birthday. The restaurant said it was not possible either today or tomorrow,” said one Twitter user.
“I think Beijing should also require real-name registration to buy wine today,” suggested another, in case of libations in Mr Liu’s honour.
Despite the best efforts of the authorities, the news that 54-year-old Mr Liu, who is serving an eleven-year prison term, will be honoured today with the Nobel prize is gradually becoming more widespread.
At Zhongnan University in Hunan province, a red banner appeared on the grounds, boldly stating: “Congratulations to Liu Xiaobo for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Thank you to the world for not ignoring the Chinese people’s pursuit of democracy.”
“In the past 60 years, the government has been good at obscuring the news. But the people are now more enlightened,” remarked one Twitterer. “Our boss said he knows who Liu Xiaobo is, but does not really think Charter ’08 is very professional,” said another.
To counter the growing awareness of Mr Liu, China’s state-run media continued its assault on the prize yesterday. “A farce that puts China on trial is underway in Oslo,” said the Global Times, part of the People’s Daily group. “Bizarrely, a Chinese criminal named Liu Xiaobo is being honoured at a grand award ceremony. It is unimaginable that such a farce, the likes of which is more commonly seen in cults, is being staged on the civilised continent of Europe.”
It added: “Tonight’s political show is not an easy task for the Norwegians. They have to ignore the signs of China’s drastic changes and social progress, in a bid to convince themselves that China’s “darkness” is real.