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Popular Chinese Writer's Microblog Scrubbed from Sina Weibo

The online Sina Weibo microblogging account of Murong Xuecun, one of China's most popular writers and one of the country's foremost critics of censorship, has been deleted from the site, suspected to be part of the government's efforts to crack down on online rumors by targeting high-profile users.

Murong's account, which had more than 1.1 million followers, was taken down from the Twitter-link website on May 11, 2013. His writing as well as his microblogging discusses social issues in contemporary China such as corruption and media censorship.

Many speculated the deletion had something to do with the government’s recent plan to squeeze the popular microblogging site's verified users with millions of followers, known as “Big V’s”. The reason behind going after these users is a desire to crack down on online rumors, as the State Internet Information Office announced on May 2, 2013, due to a recent protest in Beijing.

The move has triggered outrage among Murong's followers. Many have changed their account name into “Murong Xuecun second generation” or “Murong Xuecun third generation” to show support. One Murong Xuecun fan club emerged on the same day his Weibo account was deleted, offering updated information about Murong. The fan club wrote [zh]:

Murong Xuecun meets his fans. (A screenshot from youku)

Murong Xuecun talks about his unrelated Sina Weibo censorship experiences in Dalian in July 2012. (A screenshot from youku)

禁了一个慕容雪村,会出现千千万万个“慕容雪村”,这就是自由的力量。慕容新号“平原东方朔”。

Block one Murong Xuecun, and thousands of “Murong Xuecun” will appear. This is the strength of freedom. Murong’s new account is “Pingyuan Dongfangshuo”.

Ex-Google China chief Kai-Fu Lee shared Murong’s old posts with Weibo users from freeWeibo, a blog that keeps track of censored content on Sina Weibo:

李开复:遗体在墙外

His remains are outside of the wall.

Wang Yiqing, a journalist from Hainan Daily, updated [zh] Murong’s status on Weibo:

刚刚和@慕容雪村 通了个电话,他声调一如既往平稳,说他在三大门户网站开的微博都被永久封号。好在没有人身危险,也没有放弃抗争。

I just talked with @Murong Xuecun on the phone. His tone is calm as usual. He said his three microblogging accounts on three major websites have been blocked for good. At least he is safe, he hasn't given up protesting.

Murong himself used another Weibo account “Pingyuan Dongfangshuo” without a “V” for verified to express his thanks to his followers:

我时常批评那些恶劣的习惯、丑陋的风俗,但这片土地和其上的人们依然可爱,我还没来得及为他们做点什么的,就已经有无数人为我挺身而出。感谢每一位仗义声援的朋友,感谢你们为我所冒的风险、所受的侮辱,无论大V还是小V。那些依然在嘲讽的,我没有理由记恨; 那些伸出热情之手的,我将铭记在心。

I often criticize bad habits and ugly customs, but this land and its people are still lovely. I have not had time to do something for them and they have stood up for me. Thanks for those who showed support, thank you for the risks you have taken for me and the insults you have had to suffer for me, no matter if you are a big or a small V. For those who are mocking me, I have no reason to hold grudge. For those who have extended a helping hand, I will keep you in my heart.

Weibo user “Qiji Jianshen Yuqian” wrote [zh] about that the deletion of Murong's account was a terrible loss to the site:

今天有些恍惚,上微博时赫然发现,慕容雪村已被销号。我看过慕容的大多数书籍,对他的微博几乎从不遗漏。在国内,良心和冷静并存的作家并不多,懂法且愿意身体力行的作家就更少了。再见,慕容,我也会离开微博一段时间了,因为,这个世界恍惚了。今夜,请将我遗忘.

Today I was surprised to find Murong Xuecun’s account was deleted. I have read most of his books, and almost never missed his microblog. There are not many writers with both conscience and calmness in this country, even less for those who have some knowledge about the law and are willing to practise. Goodbye, Murong, I will leave microblogging for a while, because this world is still unenlightened. Tonight, please forget me.

Former New York Times research assistant Bao Beibei commented [zh] on the potential greater impact of this move to censor Murong:

普利策写过,如果将国家比喻成一艘船,记者就是船上的暸望者,可以及时预警前面的急流险滩。不光是记者,我觉得时评员和写社会题材的作家都可以归为暸望者一类。撤下一个暸望者,并不会减少船撞上礁石的可能,只会削弱船上其他人对礁石的警惕性和反应能力。致@慕容雪村

Pulitzer wrote that if the country is likened to a ship, reporters are the ship's lookout who offers timely warning before the rapids. Not only reporters, I think commentators and writers who write on social themes can be included in this category. Removing one lookout will not reduce the chance of the ship hitting a reef, but it may reduce the vigilance and ability to respond to the reef for those on board. For @Murong Xuecun

“LiWu-Mingri Hulianwang” expressed [zh] his disappointment with a microblogging site without Murong:

LiWu-明日互联网: @慕容雪村 阵亡。意味着微博上有真知灼见的博主已经全军覆没,微博对于我个人的价值将大幅降低,而指望微博推进社会进步已经越来越式微。

@Murongxuecun was “killed”, which means bloggers with insights have been annihilated. Microblogging has substantially reduced its value to me. The expectation for microblogging as a way to promote social progress has been weakened.

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