Media censorship of premier's words mocked online

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2012, 12:00am


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The official media's decision to change a transcript of remarks by Premier Wen Jiabao to refer to 'weibo' rather than Twitter has been ridiculed by mainland internet users frustrated at being blocked from overseas social networks.

Wen told a press conference in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday that he went to chat with local people at a cafe in Dubai. He said: 'I didn't expect the vice-president and premier of the United Arab Emirates would write on his Twitter that 'China's premier was chatting with people at the cafe. He was very humble.' Humbleness is a shared cultural value between China and Arabia.'

Official mouthpieces including Xinhua and People's Daily yesterday changed 'Twitter' to 'weibo', meaning mainland-based microblogging, and left out another sentence by Wen: 'If you don't believe it, you can go see it on Twitter.'

'Premier, what is Twitter?' asked thousands of mainland internet users on Sina Weibo yesterday. They also mocked the change made by the official media.

The mainland's 513 million internet users have no access to foreign social networks like Twitter and Facebook and the video-sharing site YouTube, which are all blocked by the authorities.

Wen's remarks coincided with the 20th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's southern tour, during which Deng restated his support for reform.

'I always emphasise that reform, not only economic reform but also political reform, should be carried out,' Xinhua quoted Wen as saying. 'All turmoil has both an internal and external cause, but I believe the internal cause is most important.'

Sina Weibo users said Wen's vague words were part of a pre-retirement vanity project designed to burnish his political legacy - with no action on concrete reforms to be seen.

'The premier again talked about political reform outside the country. In today's China, reform could never happen as there is no action,' wrote one internet user.