China has long operated the world’s most sophisticated online censorship mechanism, widely known outside the country as the Great Firewall.

Popular website for Chinese intellectuals pulled offline

Site brought left and right together but founder says he is uncertain about its future

A website popular with Chinese intellectuals became inaccessible on the weekend, with its operator saying yesterday he had no idea whether it would go back online.

Consensus Net, or Gongshi Web, a digital platform founded in September 2009 to carry reports and analysis by both left- and right-wing scholars on topics including history, politics and economics, went offline on Saturday.

A notice on the site said it was suspended for an upgrade.

A notice on the website states it has been closed for a technical upgrade. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Zhou Zhixing, founder of Consensus Net and a well-connected publisher and political commentator, said the website had not been shut down by the authorities, but he was uncertain about its future.

“It’s hard to predict what will happen in the future but, up to this moment, there is no order to stop the operation of the website,” he said.

Zhou said he had no idea when the website would reopen.

The suspension of Consensus Net comes several months after a massive reshuffle of management at Beijing-based outspoken political magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, which sparked concern about the stifling of liberal voices in mainland publications.

Frontpage screen capture of Consensus Net. Photo: supplied

In addition to the website, Consensus Media Group, of which Zhou is the CEO, publishes two magazines – Leaders and Financial Digest. Leaders stopped publication a couple of months ago.

With its slogan of “Seeking consensus in the era of great change” and its stated core values of truthful reporting and insightful analysis, Consensus Media Group characterised itself as a media organisation that examined topics ranging from politics, the military, ideology and culture to economics. It aimed to “facilitate communications, achieve consensus and promote further harmonious development of modern Chinese society”.

A Beijing-based academic who declined to be identified said intellectuals on the mainland were losing their space to make their opinions public as the authorities tightened their grip.