Last weekend I was on the NPR show "On the Media" to talk about how the word occupy has evolved since the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement in mid-September. I reiterated a point I had made in my Word Routes column the previous week, namely that the success of the movement has been helped along by the modular nature of the Occupy slogan, allowing any place name to fill the "Occupy ___" template. That template has shown up in protests around the world, from Frankfurt to Tokyo, with English Occupy generally left intact (perhaps for maximum media impact). In China, meanwhile, Occupy has a translation-equivalent that is being censored online.
As reported by China Digital Times (a bilingual news site run by UC Berkeley's Counter-Power Lab), the Twitter-like microblogging site Sina Weibo is blocking searches of the word zhànlǐng 占领, meaning "occupy," when combined with various Chinese place names. Here is the list of banned keywords that CDT uncovered:
Keywords containing provincial capitals (all provincial capitals except Hefei of Anhui province and Guiyang of Guizhou province are on the list):
“Occupy Beijing”(占领北京), “Occupy Shanghai”(占领上海), “Occupy Guangzhou”(占领广州), “Occupy Xi’an”(占领西安), “Occupy Chongqin”(占领重庆), “Occupy Tianjin”(占领天津), “Occupy Urumqi”(占领乌鲁木齐), “Occupy Lhasa”(占领拉萨), “Occupy Changsha”(占领长沙), “Occupy Wuhan”(占领武汉), “Occupy Nanchang”(占领南昌), “Occupy Fuzhou”(占领福州), “Occupy Nanjing”(占领南京), “Occupy Dalian”(占领大连), “Occupy Hangzhou”(占领杭州), “Occupy Harbin”(占领哈尔滨), “Occupy Chengdu”(占领成都), “Occupy Kunming”(占领昆明), “Occupy Hohhot”(占领呼和浩特), “Occupy Haikou”(占领海口), “Occupy Zhengzhou”(占领郑州), “Occupy Changchun”(占领长春), “Occupy Shenyang”(占领沈阳), “Occupy Xining”(占领西宁), “Occupy Lanzhou”(占领兰州), “Occupy Taiyuan”(占领太原), “Occupy Yinchuan”(占领银川), “Occupy Shijiazhuang”(占领石家庄), “Occupy Jinan”(占领济南), “Occupy Nanning”(占领南宁).
Keywords containing non-capital cities:
“Occupy Jiling”(占领吉林), “Occupy Shenzhen”(占领深圳), “Occupy Wenzhou”(占领温州), “Occupy Qingdao”(占领青岛).
Keywords containing local areas:
“Occupy Wangfujing”(占领王府井), “Occupy Zhongnanhai”(占领中南海), and “Occupy Financial Street”(占领金融街).
I asked Victor Mair about zhànlǐng, and he responded:
zhànlǐng 占领 (trad. 佔領) to me has a more aggressive (almost military) sense than "occupy" usually has in English; it conveys the idea of "capture, seize, hold" a territory or place, with the use of force often being implied or understood
佔 by itself means "occupy, take possession of" — of course, it means lots of other things too, but this is basically the idea it contributes to the term 佔領
領 by itself means "to lead, receive" — of course, it means lots of other things too, but this is basically the idea it contributes to the term 佔領
English occupy can have the "aggressive (almost military)" sense that Victor identifies — the OED's definition 6b, "to take possession of (a place), esp. by force," dates back to the 14th century. (Not surprising, considering that the Latin etymon, occupare, means "to seize.") Protest-style occupy, which only dates to 1920, is not so coercive, though the forceful overtones might suggest to some if not militarism, at least a no-nonsense assertiveness beyond simply taking up space. In any case, the semantic shades of occupy do not all come through in zhànlǐng 占领, and perhaps the more bellicose implications of the Chinese equivalent are helping to set off the censorship bells.
[Update, 10/26: See Victor Mair's extended comment below for more on possible Chinese translations of occupy.]