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Rachel Lu

Official Account of U.S. Consulate Censored on China's Twitter

The U.S. Pentagon has its drones, but China has its censors. With a swift surgical strike, China’s new secret weapon just took out a key instrument of American influence in China.

The official account of the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, was deleted by Sina on July 12 without any warning. The account had gained a wide following among China’s social media users for its humorous tweets. The account often interacted with Chinese social media celebrities and average netizens, purporting to teach English to Mr. Pan Shiyi, a real estate mongul, at one time.

According to the Wall Street Journal, no explanation was offered by Sina, a Nasdaq-traded company. The term “Consulate General” was blocked on Sina Weibo’s search engine.

Chinese netizens remembered the Shanghai consulate’s Weibo account fondly and consoled its “brother,” the official account of the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong (@美國駐港總領事館). Maintaining its humorous approach in China’s social media, the Hong Kong consulate posted a Chinese revolutionary oldie, “Remembering My Comrade in Arms,” in response to the deletion. As of early morning on July 13, the music video generated more than 6,400 retweets and 4,100 comments.

While most were puzzled by the deletion, one netizen @MOVE-SHAKE proffered a clue: “It’s because your official webpage mentioned the anniversary of a certain event that happen during a certain year. I don’t dare to say too much, but I will try to see how many times you can reincarnate.” {{1}}[[1]]因为你的官网主页提到了某一年某件事的纪念日[生病]我胆小,不敢说的太明白,时刻关注你可以转世几次 [[1]] (The term “reincarnation” is used in China’s social media to refer to new accounts registered by owners of censored accounts.) The 2011 Human Rights Report on China is posted prominently on the Shanghai Consulate’s website, and mentions the Tiananmen incident, among other things.

@君子居易2012 had a different theory: “It’s clearly payback for Hilary’s speech,” {{2}}[[2]]显然是对希拉里讲话的报复。[[2]] referring to the speech made by Mrs. Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, in Mongolia on July 9 that was widely interpreted to be a dig at China.

Many Chinese netizens reacted with surprise, sarcasm and dark humor to the deletion and welcomed the Shanghai consulate to the club of Weibo luminaries who have suffered a similar fate. @jn20071020一世 tweeted, “When the official account of the United Nations posted about the human rights problems relating to the blind man from Shandong [referring to Chen Guangcheng], it was deleted too. Everyone can now see whether our country has freedom of speech.” {{3}}[[3]]之前联合国官方微博发文关于山东盲人的人权问题,一样被删除,大家都明白我们这个国家到底有没有言论自由了。[[3]] @Lunes7 tweeted, “Even though the American imperialists have the most advanced technology in the world, they are unable to protect a Weibo account of its consulate.” {{4}}[[4]]哪怕美帝有着世界上最先进的科技,也保护不了自己大使馆的一个微博账号![[4]]

@小K黄狐 tweeted, “Let’s delete the Weibo accounts of all the imperialists; doesn’t that mean victory for Communism around the world? Long live spiritual victories!” {{5}}[[5]]把帝国主义的所有微博销号,共产主义不就在全世界胜利了?精神胜利法万古长存![[5]] Alluding to the incidents involving Wang Lijun and Chen Guangcheng, @章立凡 tweeted, “The greater meaning of this deletion is to prevent Chinese citizens from seeking virtual asylum.” {{6}}[[6]]本次销号之伟大意义,系防止官民人等前往寻求虚拟避难。[[6]]

@胜利者理智 wonders, “Would the Americans be so angry as to kick out Sina’s stock from the U.S.?” {{7}}[[7]]美帝会不会因此恼羞成怒将新浪股票赶出美国呢?[[7]] Food for thought for Sina’s shareholders?

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.
  • Hua Qiao

    Why is China so afraid of ideas?

  • Hua Qiao

    Why is China so afraid of ideas?