David Wertime

Voices — Global Times Editor: "I Treasure the Freedom I Already Have"

Global Times editor Hu Xijin

Following blind rights lawyer Cheng Guangcheng’s daring recent escape from years of house arrest, observers waited with baited breath to see how China’s media would break its silence on the news. This morning, the relatively pro-party Global Times took the first step with articles in Chinese and English which, the Wall Street Journal reported, tried to minimize Chen’s importance. The English version is still available here, but as of this afternoon, Beijing time, this writer could no longer gain access to the Chinese version.

On Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, Global Times editor Hu Xijin (@胡锡进) tweeted about the news this morning, writing that the U.S. was in an “obviously awkward” position after word emerged that Chen had likely fled into the safety of American authorities in China. Ironically, while writing that “Obama and Hillary have both avoided saying his name,” Mr. Hu did the same thing, referring to Cheng Guangcheng only as “the blind man from the Chen clan” (陈氏盲人).{{Chinese tweet}}[[Chinese tweet]]今天环球时报的头版报道了陈氏盲人的最新动态。美国国务院发言人在记者会上连续8次对记者提问回答“无可奉告”,奥巴马和希拉里都避谈他的名子。美国显然很为难。BBC称中美有可能就他的事达成协议。环球时报今天的社评也谈的这件事。[[Chinese tweet]]

Comments to this tweet are blocked with the following message: “Sorry, this content violates relevant laws and policies.” Tea Leaf Nation attempted to comment on the post with the tweet “I ardently love the motherland,” which was still blocked for offending content. However, by retweeting Hu’s message with a comment, a relatively minor microblogger (left unnamed here) skirted the restriction and captured Hu’s attention by chiding Hu for not being able to use Chen Guangcheng’s real name.

Even "I ardently love the motherland" isn't good enough for China's censors right now

Hu’s response combined idealism with an odd shot at Chen Guangcheng: “It’s not a normal [situation], but I treasure the freedom I already have on Weibo today. And I trust that in the future this freedom will continuously grow. I’m an optimist, I see a China with continuous progress. In my eyes there’s darkness, but not just darkness, because I am not blind.” {{Chinese}} [[Chinese]] 不正常,但我珍惜今天微博上已有的自由,而且我相信,未来这种自由会不断扩大。我是乐观主义者,我看到的是不断进步的中国。我的眼里有黑暗但不光是黑暗,因为我不盲。[[Chinese]]

Netizens have thus far been allowed to comment on Hu’s latest post, and have done so with withering disdain. One wrote, “Your eyes aren’t blind, but your brain is.” Another wrote, “If you were kept under long-term house arrest [and] harassed, I don’t know whether you’d be able to see the light [either].” One exhorted Hu simply to “have a little more light in your heart.” 

If nothing else, this tet-a-tet shines a light on the China’s censors, both their rigor and their limits. They can put Weibo on near-lockdown in reaction to the latest embarrassment, but cracks always open through which shards of Chinese public opinion still slip. 

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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.