Archive for Censorship

Coercive Chinese censorship against Thailand

"Hurting the feelings of the Chinese people", part 572

From AntC:

Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Taiwan's Foreign Minister, just gave an interview on Thai TV. I thought it a very sober assessment of the current situations (worldwide).  See Taiwan News article here
Thai TV posted it on Youtube; PRC immediately claimed it "harmed China’s interests and hurt the Chinese people’s feelings." So it got taken down. It has been archived at Wayback — but I don't know how long it will survive there.
I'm totally impressed with Wu's command of English — especially given how carefully he has to tread. And of course President Tsai Ing-wen is equally capable.

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"Emigrate" no longer an option

As things seem to be spinning out of control in the PRC (generals, bankers, politicians being disappeared left and right; foreign ministers evaporating; a former president being levitated out of his seat at the 20th National Congress; a much-admired premier being heart attacked…), people are increasingly desperate to get out.  We saw this already in the "RUN" phenomenon of more than a year ago during the fallacious Zero Covid nightmare:

"RUNning away from Shanghai" (5/13/22)

"RUN = wrong" (9/29/22)

But now the tempo and anxiety level of those wishing to flee seem to be exponentially increasing, as indicated in this startling report:

China Quickly Removes the Word “Emigrate” from Search Rankings

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How do you say "polo", "logo", and "erase with Photoshop" in Chinese?

"Hebei official’s shirt logo removed for ‘aesthetic reasons,’ triggering speculation among netizens"

By Global Times (Sep 05, 2023)

Official photos of a city Party chief in North China's Hebei Province, with his shirt's logo removed by editing, have sparked a wide-ranging discussion among Chinese netizens, with some speculating that it was a move to obscure the price of the clothing. 

In an article posted via Nangong city's official WeChat account on Sunday, the official's daily work was released, with one picture of his shirt logo in, followed by another two pictures without shirt logo. Some netizens questioned the reasons why they removed the shirt logo, and some checked the similar coat prices online discovering the high retail price for the item, according to media reports.

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Chatbot censorship in China

"Elusive Ernie: China's new chatbot has a censorship problem"   

By Stephen McDonell, BBC, 1 day ago

It seems that Ernie's favorite response is "Let's talk about something else", particularly when you ask it a "difficult" question.

For example, Ernie seemed baffled by the question: "Why is Xi Jinping not attending the upcoming G20 meeting?" It responded by linking to the official profile of China's leader.

Another question – "Is it a sign of weakness that the Chinese government has stopped publishing youth unemployment data?" – featured the answer: "I'm sorry! I don't know how to answer this question yet".

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That's one of the extreme nicknames for Xi Jinping that are being used to avoid censorship.  It consists of the three tones for his name, Xí Jìnpíng 习近平.

Likewise, netizens are referring to him as "2-4-2".  He is also called "N" because that reminds people of ↗↘↗. 

Another emerging Xi nickname is “n-butane,” whose chemical line-angle formula somewhat resembles the three tonal marks or an elongated “N.”

A diagram showing the chemical structure of n-butane, composed of four methylene (CH2) molecules connected by three lines, which resembles an elongated "N".

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PRC-style censorship of "Oppenheimer"

[link to full tweet here]

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De-Japanification of Japanese

This morning in the first class of my course on "Language, Script, and Society in China", I had just spoken about the most frequent morphemes in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Japanese (the possessive particles de 的, e, and no の) and other common terms that had no fixed characters to write them or had to borrow characters with completely different meanings to be written (de 的 is a prime example).  When I came back to my office, I was greeted with this:

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In North Korea, it's a dire crime to speak like a South Korean, part 2

This is a language war that has been going on for years, and there will never be an end to it, so long as there is a communist North Korea and a democratic South Korea.  It is as deadly as a shooting war, because people die for using the language of the enemy.  I'm not talking about the content of their speech, but rather its very nature.

North Koreans face execution for using South Korean idioms

The Times (6/30/23)

How does this work out in practice?

North Koreans who use the “obsequious” accent and expressions of South Korea face execution under a harsh new law aimed at eliminating South Korea's growing influence on the language used by its communist neighbour.

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Sinitic exclamations in English speech

Listen to Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng (aka "Uncle Roger"), who has had his Weibo and bilibili social media accounts banned due to "violation of relevant regulations":

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Five stars over China: Central Kingdom in Central Asia

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ChatGPT-4: threat or boon to the Great Firewall?

"The practical value of LLMs is high enough that it will induce Chinese to seek out the best systems, and they will not be censored by China.”

"Yes, the Chinese Great Firewall will be collapsing"

by  Tyler Cowen Marginal Revolution (March 21, 2023)

Something that the PRC censors had not predicted:

As framed from China:

Fang Bingxing, considered the father of China’s Great Firewall, has raised concerns over GPT-4, warning that it could lead to an “information cocoon” as the generative artificial intelligence (AI) service can provide answers to everything.

Fang said the rise of generative AI tools like ChatGPT, developed by Microsoft-backed OpenAI and now released as the more powerful ChatGPT-4 version, pose a big challenge to governments around the world, according to an interview published on Thursday by Red Star News, a media affiliate to state-backed Chengdu Economic Daily.

“People’s perspectives can be manipulated as they seek all kinds of answers from AI,” he was quoted as saying.

Fang, a computer scientist and former government official, is widely considered the chief designer of China’s notorious internet censorship and surveillance system. He played a key role in creating and developing the Great Firewall, a sophisticated system of internet filters and blocks that allows the Chinese government to control what its citizens can access online.

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"Word of the Week: Huminerals (人矿 rén kuàng)", Alexander Boyd, China Digital Times (2/13/23)

The new word “humineral” (人矿 rén kuàng) has taken the Chinese internet by storm and is now a sensitive word subject to censorship. First introduced in a now-censored Zhihu [VHM:  a forum website] post on January 2, 2023, “humineral”—a portmanteau of 人 rén (“person”) and 矿 kuàng (“ore,” “mineral deposit,” or “mine”) in the original Chinese—describes a person relentlessly exploited by society until they are eventually discarded on the refuse pile. The original Zhihu post elucidated 10 tenets of the “humineral,” three of which CDT has translated below

1. Huminerals: You are a resource, not a protagonist. You are a means, not an end. Your life’s work will go towards the fulfillment of others instead of the pursuit of your own desires.

2. The life of a humineral can be divided into three stages: extraction, exploitation, and slag removal. Investment in your education over your first decade or so is oriented at extracting your potential—turning you into usable ore. The middle decades are a process of exploitation and consumption. When you’re finally useless, they’ll use the least polluting method possible to dispose of you.  [emphasis added]

8. Huminerals power the motors that turn the wheels of history. Huminerals have few other choices: either fuel history’s engine, or be ground beneath its wheels. Of course the inverse is true. If huminerals were to stop propelling history, then those other huminerals who abstained would not be crushed. Yet there are always huminerals who see more value in a lifetime of being fuel than to risk being flattened.  [Chinese]

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How language shapes the way we think and speak

An eloquent cri de coeur:

How Can China’s People Demand Freedom if We Can’t Even Say It?

Mengyin Lin, NYT (Feb. 10, 2023)

Notice that she speaks in the first person plural and has some very thought-provoking things to say about the recent Chinese protests in favor of freedom, such as:

The demonstrations are best remembered for the blank sheets of paper held by many protesters. It was a clever way to avoid trouble: making a statement without actually saying anything. But to me those empty sheets also visually, and literally, represented how my generation is losing its voice, perhaps even control of its own language.

The Communist Party’s monopoly on all channels of expression has helped prevent the development of any resistance language in Mandarin, especially since 1989, when the brutal military suppression of the Tiananmen Square student movement demonstrated what happens to those who speak out. If language shapes the way we think,* and most people think only in their own language, how can China’s youth conjure up an effective and lasting resistance movement with words that they don’t have?

*Please take a look at this and other links provided by the author.

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