Bloggers skirt censors with noodles, teletubbies

2012-03-23 09:48

Chinese web users frustrated by the blocking of sensitive terms have come up with a system of bizarre code words to allow them to post on a political saga that has gripped the blogosphere.

China blocks all information deemed sensitive under a vast censorship system known as the “Great Firewall”, but the huge rise of weibos – microblogs similar to Twitter – is making this task increasingly difficult.

In recent days censors have been working overtime to remove references to the dramatic sacking last week of rising political star Bo Xilai and rumours of a coup led by security chief Zhou Yongkang, said to have been close to Bo.

Bloggers have tried to get around this by referring to Zhou as “Master Kong” – a brand of instant noodles – because the names share a common character in Chinese.

“Played too big, Master Kong is now in trouble,” posted one weibo user under the name Engineer Zhongyu.

Premier Wen Jiabao, who criticised Bo on the eve of his sacking, is referred to as “Teletubbies” because his name shares a character with the Chinese name for the popular children’s TV series.

And President Hu Jintao has been given the name “carrot” because “Hu” uses the Chinese character for the vegetable.

“For today’s tug of war, carrot and Teletubby have patiently waited for years, which is not easy,” posted a weibo user called Long Long River, in an apparent reference to the political divisions in the ruling Communist Party.

Censors have blocked all forms of search on the weibos for terms linked to Bo, who was removed as party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing last Thursday.

Search terms such as Bo Xilai, Bo’s son Bo Guagua or his wife Gu Kailai have all been censored on Sina.com’s popular weibo.

References to Ferrari have also been deleted after an unknown driver crashed his Italian sports car in Beijing and died, sparking speculation he may have been the son of a top leader.

Political analysts say Bo’s ousting has exposed deep divisions in the Communist Party ahead of a generational handover of power later this year.

The lack of an official explanation for the move has served to fuel the online rumour mill, which has this week buzzed with groundless speculation of a military coup, gunshots and even tanks rolling into central Beijing.

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