Silence of the fans: China’s G20 censorship blocks social media praise of first lady Peng Liyuan’s stunning banquet dress
China’s first lady Peng Liyuan took the limelight at the G20 summit’s welcoming banquet in Hangzhou on Sunday with a stunning qipao-style dress.
However, her fans were not able to flood social media with their admiring comments as they had been able to do in the past because of the heavy online censorship in force during the summit.
Sunday was also the most censored day on the mainland since August 2015, when two explosions took place in the port city of Tianjin, according to Weiboscope, a censorship index run by the University of Hong Kong.
About 18 posts were censored on Weibo per ten thousand posts published on Sunday, according to the index. Top censored words included “country”, “summit”, “airport” and “Hangzhou”.
Peng and Michelle Obama, the wife of the US President Barack Obama, are known as the“First ladies of fashion”.
Peng has won the hearts of many fans with her air of confidence and refined fashion sense – a striking contrast with the low-profile wives of previous Chinese presidents, who were always kept in the background dressed in their dull suits.
With her taste for clean, pure lines and traditional Chinese elements, Peng did not let down fashion critics on Sunday with her choice of the sapphire blue qipao-style knee-length dress, with delicate floral embroidery, which she paired with a small clutch bag in a matching colour and a pair of classic black heels.
“Very good!” said William Tang, one of Hong Kong’s best-known fashion designers.
“The qipao is quite stunning. I’ll give 8 out of 10.
“However, the cutting and the fitting cut have been more advanced,” he said, “Length could have been longer by 15 centimetres. It’s too short!”
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In the past, Peng’s banquet dress would have generated tens of thousands of comments on Chinese social media by now in praise of the first lady’s beauty.
When Beijing hosted the annual gathering of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders in 2014, and during Peng’s visit with her husband, President Xi Jinping, to the United States and Britain last year, state media has taken the opportunity to heap laudatory reports on the first lady, who has made clear her mission to promote China’s image in diplomacy.
However, until Monday morning, discussions about Peng’s banquet attire could barely be seen on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, or in the media.
Censors have tightened their grip on the internet because of the summit.
State media’s Weibo reports about the summit have largely been closed for comments, as can be seen from the Weibo accounts of the Xinhua news agency and state broadcaster CCTV.
The Weibo account of the United Nations posted a video last night of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his wife, Ban Soon-taek, greeted by Xi and Peng before the banquet.
— SCMP News (@SCMP_News) September 5, 2016
The post was greeted by Weibo users expressing their positive surprise that they had actually found a place where they were still allowed to leave their comments – as if they could not believe their luck.
“What bravery! They allow us to comment,” one comment read.
“All the mainland media outlets have become tongueless.”
Peng’s fans did not waste the rare opportunity to voice their admiration either.
“All I see [from the video] is that Mama Peng is so beautiful,” one admirer said.
“Our first lady is too beautiful,” another said.
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