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A Wave of Internet Censorship amidst the PRC Constitution Changes

Xi Jinping is already considered to be one of the most influential Chinese leaders in the country’s history.

From his compelling anti-corruption campaigns to the colossal Belt and Road initiative, for, the past five years Xi has been changing China’s role in the world. Now he might stay in power around even longer, beyond 2023, when the second presidential term is ought to end.

by Eugene Michaels

Last Sunday (February 25th), the Chinese Communist Party proposed 21 changes to the country’s constitution, number 14 citing a removal of the phrase the President and the Vice President of the PRC “ shall serve no more than two consecutive terms”. The official voting on the constitutional modifications will take place in March. This change does not directly imply that Xi Jinping might become a president for life, but it would be no surprise if he extended his power for a decade or so.

The news media was quick to pick up the news about such proposal, and people were even faster to begin criticising the decision on the social media, leading to a wave of censorship on the Chinese Internet.

During the first term of Xi’s presidency, it already became clear that he does not condone public dissent, having launched many campaigns of censoring various politically sensitive discussion online. Such actions suggest that Xi’s cabinet continuously try to silence many controversial anti-governmental voices online and offline.

However, since Sunday the censorship has been stronger than ever. The government has suspended numerous personal accounts and banned a whole array of keywords and phrases from social media contents and search results. Weibo and WeChat, being the most popular applications were targeted the most. Some of the words, banned, for the time being, are ‘change the law’ (变法), ‘personality cult’ (个人崇拜), ‘the wheel of history’ (历史的车轮), ‘shameless,’ and even ‘disagree’ (不同意).

The majority of the banned keywords are alliterations to the previous leaders and political events. Such as a combination of Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong’s names – Xi Zedong (习泽东), which compares the increasingly authoritarian presidency of Xi Jinping to the dictator-like leadership of Mao Zedong during the 20th century. More unexpected keywords stem from the dystopian literature of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, as anything related to 1984, Animal Farm, or Brave New World has also been erased from the Chinese Internet. Furthermore, a lot of Disney associated keywords also got banned, such as ‘Winnie the Pooh’ (小熊维尼), mainly because of a meme from 2013, when netizens began comparing Xi Jinping’s appearance to the famous character.

The most infamous censorship instance was the brief banning of the letter ‘N.’ Although, this letter was censored only for a short time, the news about it surely made waves across the Internet, as the whole world was both laughing and crying about the level of the Chinese censorship. Apparently, the letter caught the attention of the censors, due to its probable usage in a phrase ‘n terms in office’, as ‘n’ can represent any number higher than 2.

Since the beginning of 2018, the Internet in China has been buzzing with news of Internet censorship, cyberspace cleanup, VPN banning, and similar. Nobody can say what will happen next month or even tomorrow. Everyone can only wait and keep on using the web cautiously. We can just promise that NordVPN will continue working hard to provide the Chinese and global users with the safe and unrestricted Internet.

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