Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s feminist critics in China accuse Weibo of gagging their views

Feminist group’s account blocked on Weibo for 30 days after it posted article saying US president was pursuing misogynistic, homophobic and racist policies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 4:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 February, 2017, 11:17pm

Chinese feminists have hit out at their country’s answer to Twitter after it gagged one of their movement’s most visible social media accounts in an apparent bid to stifle criticism of US President Donald Trump.

The “Feminist Voice in China” account on social networking site Sina Weibo was handed a 30-day ban on Monday for allegedly violating Chinese law.

The punishment came six days after the group posted a Chinese translation of an article in which US-based feminist academics called for a new “militant feminist struggle”, partly in response to Trump’s “aggressively misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies”.

The article urged activists to launch an “international strike” on March 8 to protest against male violence and support reproductive rights.

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Xiong Jing, an editor for “Feminist Voice in China”, said Weibo had sent the group a private message on Monday night informing it that the account, which was set up in 2010 and has more than 80,000 followers, had been temporarily blocked. Weibo blamed “recent publications [that] violated the state’s relevant laws”.

Xiong claimed insiders at the social media giant had said the order originated from Beijing’s internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China. “They simply sent a message to block feminist voices in China.”

Xiong told Radio Free Asia, a US-funded news outlet, that Weibo had not been very specific about its motivations but “we are guessing that it’s because we sent out some tweets calling for a women’s strike action against Trump”.

Li Maizi, one of the leading lights of China’s nascent feminist movement, said the attempt to silence “Feminist Voice” was part of a broader government push to rein in those battling for gender equality. “It is part of a public opinion war and a battle for influence in China.”

By blocking the account, authorities were sending a warning to the movement. “They are dipping their toes [in the water]. It’s like: ‘This time I deleted this one story, but next time I’ll delete them all.’”

The ban may also reflect Beijing’s nervousness about the state of US-China relations in the Trump era.

Trump’s shock election and his appointment of several ferociously anti-China voices has fuelled Chinese fears that a dramatic and destabilising downturn in relations is on the cards.

Such concerns faded earlier this month after President Xi Jinping and Trump held what the White House called an extremely cordial telephone conversation. However, lingering concerns mean Beijing has sought to contain any criticism of Trump that might further complicate its ability to engage with Washington.

A propaganda directive leaked to the China Digital Times website last month showed Chinese newsrooms had been instructed to tow the Communist party line when covering Trump.

“Any news about Trump must be handled carefully; unauthorised criticism of Trump’s words or actions is not allowed,” it said.

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The live broadcast of Trump’s inaugural speech was forbidden while news outlets were ordered only to use stories about Trump produced by Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

Paul Stronski, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beijing, said it remained uncertain whether Trump’s foreign policy would be steered by characters such as chief strategist Steve Bannon who were “certainly looking for a showdown with China ” or more conventional thinkers such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“We almost have two duelling governments here,” said Stronski, a senior State Department analyst under Barack Obama. “It’s very unclear which is the actual direction this is going to take.”