Chinese netizens evade censorship about Nobel winner Liu XiaoBo

JISHOU, HUNAN — Chinese dissident Liu XiaoBo received the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Friday, in absentia since he is still serving an 11-year prison sentence in China.

The Chinese government was far from happy with the international attention paid Liu, who co-authored Charter ’08, a manifesto for democratic reforms in the Middle Kingdom. Foreign TV news coverage was blacked out, major news sites like the BBC and CNN were blocked, and any mentions of the award on domestic sites were rapidly deleted by the government’s army of censors.

But netizens here are used to government censorship, and they have developed their own sly ways of getting their points across without being overt. One example is the “grass mud horse,” a mythical llama-like creature whose name in Chinese sounds much like telling someone to have sex with his mother. (Cuss words are usually censored in the media here. Well, the Chinese ones, anyway.) reports that admirers of Liu have been posting tributes on Twitter to other people surnamed Liu. The tributes have a double meaning — praise of Liu XiaoBo and also the other figure sharing his family name. here are some examples. Their names are linked to Wikipedia articles about them.

From @pufei (蒲飞):

The person I most admire has the surname Liu. He has won many awards from overseas organizations. His work is popular at home and abroad. His honest face inspires a feeling of warmth. He is quite concerned with the situation of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. His name is Lau Ching-wan (刘青云)

From @VicCh:
Essay: The person I admire most — “The person I most admire has the surname Liu. He has won major international prizes, and his deeds have inspired a fighting spirit in his countrymen. Although for a time he vanished from our sight, I believe his spirit will live on….” The teacher moves to call the police. The next line: “His name is Liu Xiang (刘翔).”

From @doubleaf (陈双叶) via @songshinan (宋石男):
The person I most admire has the surname Liu. He led students campaigns, published books, and won international prizes. Later he was unjustly accused and spent many years in prison. But I believe that all of this is but the test of history, because he said that fortunately, history is written by the people. His name is Liu Shaoqi (刘少奇).

From @wentommy (文涛):
The person I most admire has the surname Liu. Despite a prison term, this wonderful individual has won all kinds of international awards, and is an idol to many people. Her name is Liu Xiaoqing (刘晓庆).

From @yueyexiake (月夜侠客):
The person I most admire has the surname Liu. He has won world-class prizes. His skill with his hands shocked the world, and he must admit: I have no enemies. Sometimes he’ll stammer when talking to reporters, and for a time he vanished from view. The entire world frequently remembers his name, the country’s bridge to the future. His name is Liu Guoliang (刘国梁).

From @wentommy (文涛):
The person I most admire has the surname Liu. He enjoys immense prestige among the common people, but is a thorn in the side of the powerful. He is known for his humanity and kindness, and even when insulted he endures it with tolerance. In times of distress he would give up his family before his morals, and faces danger willingly. But some have criticized him for fake humanity and false righteousness. His name is Liu….Xuande (刘玄德).

From @nuosong (罗晓松):
The person I most admire has the surname Liu. He has a doctorate, has published books, and has been a defendant. He has won major prizes from many western nations, as well as awards from overseas organizations in Hong Kong and Taiwan. He is an idol to many people in China, and is the pride of the Chinese people. His name is Andy Lau (刘德华)!

Longtime China observers have noted that Beijing has changed its tactics. In the past, the censors would have taken pains to block most international news sites. They didn’t this time. While the BBC and CNN main sites were inaccessible, I was able to access CNN-Mexico, The Guardian in the UK and several others. Google News was also available throughout most of the day.

Rather than try the impossible task of blocking all access to the outside world, the government smeared Liu’s reputation and made sure that the average citizen knew nothing about why Liu was recognized by the Nobel Peace Prize committee. In addition, officials accused the Nobel committee and the West of trying to meddle with internal Chinese affairs.

No one was allowed to attend the award ceremony in Oslo to accept the prize. Instead, an empty chair “accepted” the award. The last time that happened was during the time Adolph Hitler controlled Germany.

The tweets about people surnamed Liu are amusing in some ways, but they speak volumes about how tightly the government controls information here. Think about that whenever some politico in the USA starts yakking about monitoring Internet and cellphone communications for reasons of “national security.” That’s what they say here.

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