Nationalist editor at state media bemoans China's internet restrictions
Global Times editor Hu Xijin said on Weibo that China should open up its internet -- then deleted the post
The editor of mainland nationalist newspaper Global Times pushed back against Beijing’s tightened internet controls in the lead-up to China’s 70th anniversary celebrations in a now-deleted social media post on Wednesday.
“National Day is approaching and it’s extremely difficult to access the web; even our work at the Global Times is affected,” Hu Xijin wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.
“The overwhelming majority of our people are patriotic and love the Party with strong political conviction,” the post on Hu’s personal account said. “This country is not fragile. I suggest society should have more access to the outside internet, which will benefit the strength and maturity of China’s public opinion, scientific research, and external communications, as well as China’s national interests.”
Mainland China has a history of limiting access to the internet and banning websites and platforms before sensitive or important political events. Such measures are in addition to regular monitoring and censoring of political comments on domestic social media made possible by policies and protocols known as the Great Firewall.
Access to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia was blocked before this year’s 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4, while users were prevented from accessing Instagram after photos of Hong Kong’s “umbrella movement” protests were circulated in 2014.
Internet users can use virtual private networks to access the net outside the firewall, but these are often subject to interference.
China’s state media has had to jump the Great Firewall in recent years after central government gave it the job of telling the country’s story to the outside world.
Hu is a regular Twitter commentator, and his account has more than 100,000 followers. Global Times runs busy Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts, and it has about 1.6 million Twitter followers.
Hu later explained on Weibo that he deleted his post because many people had shared it and he did not want to stir up a controversy. He said he hoped discussions would be “rational.”
On Wednesday, he turned his attention to Hong Kong, tweeting that a US congressional hearing on weeks of political protests was “full of biased information and lies about HK. It only invited HK radical opposition figures to testify, indicating US Congress doesn’t want to get full, objective and true information at all.”
As preparations to mark the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 continue, media is not the only area where restrictions are being put in place.
With a military parade and what has been described by state media as “mass pageantry” planned for Beijing, objects such as kites, balloons, and drones have been banned from airspace over the center of the Chinese capital, while security has been tightened at major transport centers.