Internet restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities over the weekend were lifted Tuesday but the crackdown was a reminder to netizens that Beijing is ready to pull the plug when it sees things it does not like.
In this latest case it was rumors about a supposed coup the drew the authorities ire. What Beijing seems unable to grasp is that cutting off the flow of information only gives credence to such claims not matter how flimsy or fantastic.
But when your only tool is a hammer then every problem starts to look like a nail. A far more effective response would have been an open and frank discussion. Honesty and the truth tend to kill rumors as fast as they start. It is only when people behave as if they have something to hide that things get out of control.
The Wall Street Journal reported the back ground to the story.
Two of China’s top online communities lifted government-imposed restrictions on Tuesday that signaled to hundreds of millions of Chinese Internet users that Beijing will crack down to keep its traditional grip on political discussion.
The restrictions, imposed on Saturday in response to unsubstantiated rumors last month of a coup attempt in Beijing, affected Twitter-like microblogging services that have become increasingly important nationwide outlets for information and social interaction. They offered an unusual reminder to a broad swath of the Chinese public—even those with little interest in political issues—of Beijing’s willingness to censor discussion in public forums.
They also illustrate the political uncertainty in China after the ouster last month of former Communist Party star Bo Xilai exposed rifts in the nation’s leadership.
The nation’s two largest microblogging operators, Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., at 8 a.m. Tuesday allowed users to resume commenting on one another’s posts after a three-day outage. The commenting function is a key feature for the two companies’ hundreds of millions of users, allowing for fast-paced and freewheeling online conversations, and the weekend move to halt comments was harshly criticized by some members of China’s voluble online community.
Thousands of users rushed in to fill the three-day gap in commenting on the services, which are called weibo—or little blogs—in Chinese. “Freedom has been restored again!” commented Sina Weibo user writing under the handle Sheep Out to Pasture 1988.
At the same time, users flooded to the account of Sina Chief Executive Charles Chao—who posted about the weather Tuesday in Shanghai—to criticize the clampdown.