Digital Journalism Review

Former Taiwan premier's Chinese weibo account deleted (updated)

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 February, 2013, 12:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:23pm

Updated at 11.30am; Thursday, February 21

Former Taiwan premier Frank Hsieh Chang-Ting is probably the first heavyweight from the Democratic Progressive Party with his own fan club on the Chinese mainland.

He follows in the footsteps of China’s new party secretary Xi Jinping and incoming premier Li Keqiang, who have their own weibo fan clubs.

On Wednesday night, mainland netizens set up a fan club on Sina Weibo for Hsieh, showing sympathy and support for the former DPP chairman.

The account, Chang-Ting Fan Club, on the Chinese Twitter-style site uploaded its first post at 11.33pm and has attracted 34 followers as of Thursday morning.

According to the profile, the account creator is from the Pudong district in Shanghai. “Hope this account won’t be deleted, just like what they had done to chairman Hsieh Chang-Ting’s,” the bio said.

Meanwhile, Hsieh must have been busy playing with Sina Weibo on Wednesday night, creating at least two accounts that both got deleted in just a couple of hours.

Hsieh used “Chang-Ting Bu Hsieh”, which also means “Will stand firm and won’t wither” in Chinese, as the username for his third account. In the only post he uploaded, he cited an ancient Chinese poem, complaining that “We are of the same root, Why boil me so hot?”

Wednesday, February 20

Former Taiwan premier Hsieh Chang-Ting’s Sina Weibo account was deleted around noon on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the Chinese Twitter-style site made him a VIP user.

It remains unclear why Sina Weibo put itself in such embarrassing situation, but some mainland journalists said it might show that there were contradictory policies on these matters among the mainland’s different government departments.

“It must have been the superiors of Sina, such as propaganda authorities, who issued the order [to delete Hsieh’s account],” said two Beijing-based senior online editors, who asked that their names not be used.

They said that it was impossible for Sina to make Hsieh a VIP user without approval from the Taiwan Affairs Office.

“But if the state-level propaganda department does not like Hsieh’s posts, they can ask Sina to delete his account,” they added.

Hsieh, who had been the chairman of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, said on Wednesday morning the verification of his weibo account had gained him many new followers since last night.

“Some [Weibo users] welcome me, some warn me of the risks of being deleted, some are curious about whether [the account] is a kind of political infiltration, others say it’s a pity that the number of my followers is quite low ......” Hsieh said in a post on Wednesday morning, “But even if there is only one person who responds to me, then it is worth communicating and I will be touched.”

Hsieh made only 21 posts and had nearly 60,000 followers by Wednesday noon, but he has already been praised by mainland netizens for talking about the constitution and freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is not about the freedom to criticise powerful officials, but about whether you will lose this freedom after having criticised them,” Hsieh explained in a post uploaded on Wednesday.

Hsieh’s post did not mention any specific issues, but some mainland netizens said it was a sharp criticism of Beijing’s censorship, while others doubt he was referring to former Google China president Kai-Fu Lee’s temporary ban on weibos.

Without explaining why he was banned, Lee said in a Twitter post on Sunday night, “I am silenced on Sina and Tencent [Weibos] for three days, so everyone can find me here.”

In another post uploaded last Thursday, Hsieh said that “in some countries, the constitutions are only for examination and had not been implemented; while others only implement part of their constitutions and the part they have not implemented is the source of people’s pain.”

Hsieh uploaded his first post on February 6. A Sina Weibo user commented on Wednesday morning, saying that: “Let’s see how long can you keep your account.”