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Ai Weiwei | May 24
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has gained a huge international following for his biting critiques and pranks on China's government. Now he has ...
Back in China, it's old media vs. new media. After the Wenzou train wreck a few months ago, rumors about official cover-ups started spreading on social media, and mainstream media stepped in to try to stop the viral chit-chat. Now, that effort against rumor-spreading has gone a step further.
Sina Wei Bo, China's largest social media site, is cracking down on what it's calling "false rumors". It's already notified its 200-million plus users that two stories being spread on the site last week were false, and has suspended the accounts of the users who spread those stories. The news comes after Beijing's Communist Party secretary visited the offices of Sina last week, and asked the company to crack down on "harmful rumors and information".
In addition to this suspension, Sina's announced it is setting up a separate channel called "Sina Refutes False Rumors", and has invited users to contribute stories.
One user wrote: "Does Sina have the right to stop other users from expressing their right to spread information? Isn't this rumor busting just a way of silencing us?"
Meanwhile, released dissident Ai Weiwei is back. The artist was detained in early April, and held for 81 days before finally being released early this summer after international protest. As a condition of his release, Ai was supposed to keep quiet. But he's not – he's back on Twitter. And on August 8th, he started talking about his imprisonment, and the experiences of some of his friends.
He wrote: "Those innocent people associated with me, like Liu Zhenggang, Hu Mingfen, and Wen Tao, were illegally imprisoned and underwent great psychological devastation and physical torment."
On the 9th, he took to Twitter again, speaking up for Wang Lihong, a blogger and advocate for the downtrodden, whose trial began in Beijing that day, and also for Ran Yunfei, another imprisoned blogger.
"If you don't speak up for Wang Lihong, if you don't speak up for Ran Yunfei, not only are you not someone who speaks for fairness and justice, you also have no self respect."
Since then, his Twitter has been relatively benign, but Ai hasn't toned anything down. Last week he penned a scathing editorial for Newsweek in which he called, "Beijing: a Constant Nightmare". Meanwhile, China's government is busy revising the laws that govern detention of criminal suspects. But they're not looking to close the loophole that allowed police to detain Ai Weiwei for three months in a secret location without telling his family – in fact, they're looking to legalize it. The proposed new law would allow police to detain persons suspected of terror or of endangering state security in undisclosed locations for long periods of time without informing their family or friends, and without formally charging them. Since many Chinese dissidents are accused of endangering state security, the move looks to be an attempt to legitimize the detention of Ai Weiwei and other dissidence that occurred over this past spring.
In Beijing, I'm Charlie Custer for LinkTV.
In another crackdown, the official news agency Xinhua reports that authorities have shut down 62-hundred websites that specialize in deleting online news items that are unfavorable to their clients' business interests. The sites also post negative things about their clients' competitors.