China censors former Premier’s article seen as subtle criticism of Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping talks to former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao after the closing session of the National People’s Congress. (Photo courtesy: Independent)

(, Apr20’21) – For calling on his country to be “full of fairness and justice, always with a respect for the will of the people,” China has censored an article written by former Premier Wen Jiabao in a tribute to his recently deceased mother, reported Apr 20.

The article itself, a tribute to his late mother who had died in Dec 2020, appeared in Macau Herald, an obscure weekly in Macao, on Apr 16. But it was posted on a public account on Chinese chat app WeChat the next day, and was swiftly restricted, reported Reuters Apr 20.

When users tried to share Wen’s article, a notice appeared saying that the content went against WeChat’s regulations and could not be shared, a common censorship measure in China that is one step below purging articles completely.

The heartfelt tribute was stated to include details of Wen’s mother’s struggle during periods of upheaval in China, including the second Sino-Japanese War and the political purges of the Cultural Revolution.

“In my mind, China should be a country full of fairness and justice, always with a respect for the will of the people, humanity, and human nature,” Wen was quoted as saying in his article, which did not directly discuss China’s current political environment.

The report noted that China’s ruling Communist Party (CCP) had recently sought to tighten control over how netizens discussed history on the country’s heavily controlled internet, in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding, in July.

Last week, an arm of China’s cyber regulator launched a hotline for netizens to report “illegal” comments that “distorted” the Party’s historical achievements and attacked the country’s leadership.

On Weibo, the Chinese social media site similar to Twitter, there was scant mention of the article, and comments and sharing functions had been disabled. Links to articles on Wen’s tribute posted on Weibo returned “404” messages on Apr 20 morning, indicating they had been deleted.

China’s Premier from 2003 to 2013, Wen was widely considered to be a relatively liberal, reformist figure within the Chinese leadership. He was once a top aide to Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, who was purged for opposing the violent crackdown against protesters on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in June, 1989, noted the report.

It said Wen had been censored before: in an interview in 2010, Wen told CNN‘s Fareed Zakaria that freedom of speech was “indispensable” and the Chinese people’s wishes for democracy and freedom were “irresistible.” After briefly going viral, the video was scrubbed from the Chinese internet.

The report noted that compared to those comments, Wen’s essay this week was far milder in tone, but the climate had changed dramatically, with both freedom of speech and any aspirations for democracy and freedom taking a major hit under Xi.


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