David Wertime

Chinese Netizens Sound Off: "Weibo = Freedom of Speech"

It’s no secret that Weibo, China’s Twitter, is crawling with censors. And yet, some netizens say it has provided them with the most open forum they have ever enjoyed inside of China. Many statements that would have been considered serious crimes in the past are now routine in Chinese social media.

On January 27, Beijing microblogger Wang Yuquan, perhaps mindful that Twitter has just agreed to censor posts in countries that require it, asked a provocative question on Sina Weibo: “Should Weibo be [formally regulated]; should there be a baseline for [online] conduct?”

The query has spurred a fascinating and frank discussion. Collected below are some of the best or most representative comments from netizens.

Everything needs a baseline. What is a baseline? It is an unspoken consensus among society’s majority. We’ve always been a society without a baseline, a society that in fact lacks consensus. – @光头王凯

People who spend a lot of their time on Weibo often have their eyes full of rights, democracy, justice, fairness, which makes you think that revolution is either imminent or is going to be violent. But then you go back to a small city to live for a few days, and everything is quiet and peaceful, and you discover the revolution will need [another] hundred years. – @杨-晓坤

This is just a technological means, the same way you can use a cell phone to call your family or to arrange a mistress. Can you require that people using a technology only use it for “good” things that you like?
- @超氧化物歧化酶

In a complete and mature system, everyone respects the rules of the game. What are Weibo’s rules? More importantly, what are we using Weibo to go do, and what can Weibo actually change? – @焉止

Right now, people’s attitude toward Weibo is: Weibo = freedom of speech. – @办公室无敌李小胖

Truth and rumor will always exist together, just like a healthy body will always have germs. If you exterminate the germs, the person cannot survive. – @王书城

So-called democracy is nothing more than a group of selfish and self-interested people choosing a leader or a policy that accords with the selfish desires of the majority. – @Ezio0

Weibo indeed needs to be regulated. One little Weibo post has great force, but it can be spread whether or not this force is good or bad. The Weibo I most desire is one where everyone builds a harmonious and civilized society together. – @笑点老低了

Certain parties have acquiesced to Weibo as a place for the public to vent its spleen. As long as there’s no revolution, people can say whatever they want. – @饼卷葱

Without Weibo, there will be no democracy. … [Weibo] provides a very narrow, small window for public opinion and the right to know. – @赵楚

Because it contains massive amounts of information, Weibo has a very powerful ability to self-correct. When rumors come out, they can be refuted with more than 10 times the speed as with other forms of media. Any limits on Weibo discussion will only reduce the amount of information, slowing Weibo’s ability to self-correct and increasing the number of rumors. This is the same difference between Wikipedia and Baidu Zhidao [Baidu's question-and-answer site]. – @京藏都不如s高速

Real rumors on Weibo don’t have any foothold, and what’s left is the truth. That is the power of open information. – @勤快的茶陵牛

It’s a gateway to vent, and more than that it is one small ray of light at dawn. – @中庸小道

Don’t make jokes. Democracy–I’m not sure if I’ll see it or not, I am 28 this year. – @小鱼689


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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.