One day after the Chinese microblog account was verified by Sina Weibo as belonging to Frank Hsieh, the former presidential nominee of Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), it was stealthily erased.
But the disappearance did not go unnoticed; instead, it brought a tidal wave of online comments on China’s social media.
No doubt the account was censored, but the swiftness of its demise still surprised many, since Hsieh only posted a few abstract musings on liberty and constitutionalism in his short Weibo career. Hsieh is considered one of the DPP honchos who takes a milder stance on Taiwan independence and showed his willingness to break the ice with the mainland through a visit in 2012.
Many mainland Internet users, who still cherish the idea of reunification with Taiwan, believe that such moves would only serve to undermine any chance of reaching that goal.
@XL微勃 wrote, “This censorship would allow Taiwanese-independence advocates to tell the Taiwanese people that, ‘See, this is the mainland. They don’t tolerate a Weibo account, how can they tolerate freedom?’ Why in the world would they agree reunify? These moves by dumb-ass officials are turning Taiwan’s popular opinion against the mainland. Are they spies sent by independence advocates?”
@白鸟摄影 agreed, “They won’t tolerate Frank Hsieh, how can they earn the trust of more than 20 million Taiwanese? Reunification sounds like a pipe dream.”
@王翊均 commented with anger, “This large country is afraid of a Weibo account of a DPP politician? Who is impeding reunification? Who is making it seem like there are two different countries across the Taiwan Strait?”
Some Internet users speculated that China’s propaganda department, known for its tone-deafness, likely ordered the deletion to prevent Hsieh from winning hearts and minds on the mainland and advancing the independence agenda. The deletion of Hsieh’s account followed censorship of Weibo posts of other prominent Taiwanese personalities, including businessman Kai-fu Lee and actress Annie Yi.
Hsieh tweeted before his account vanished, “Whether or not there is freedom of speech does not depend on how freely you speak when you criticize high officials or people in power, but whether you lose your freedom after you speak.”