China has one of the most social media–savvy and active online populations in the world, with more than 800 million internet users. However, because of the Chinese government’s oppressive internet censorship, everything Chinese citizens see is restricted and controlled.
To enforce censorship and promote the Chinese Communist Party’s views, the government employs “tens of thousands of individuals at the national, provincial, and local levels to monitor electronic communications and online content,” according to the State Department’s Human Rights Report. That monitoring includes reviewing personal letters, telephone calls, social media postings and online news and advertising.
What can’t you view or talk about in China? Here are just a few examples of words and phrases that are currently or have been censored by Beijing.
- Winnie the Pooh (小熊维尼) — Chinese internet users use images of Winnie the Pooh to represent President Xi Jinping.
- Baozi (包子) — Steamed bun. One of Xi Jinping’s nicknames online.
- Dalai Lama (达赖喇嘛) — The Tibetan leader in exile. A symbol of Tibetan independence.
- Tibet Independence (西藏独立) — Talking about independence for Tibet is forbidden.
- Soviet Jokes (苏联笑话) — Mocking the Soviet Union is considered making fun of communism.
- Go, Hong Kong (香港加油) — Support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
- 709 (709律师) — A group of human rights activists and lawyers arrested on July 9 (7/9), 2015.
- Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) — Nobel Prize-winning human rights activist imprisoned by China.
- Great Firewall of China (伟大的防火墙) — Discussing Chinese censorship is itself censored.
- Dictatorship (专政) — Suggesting or saying that China is a dictatorship is forbidden.
- Tiananmen (天安门) — Any references to the 1989 pro-democracy protests that ended in bloodshed.
- June 4 (六四) — The date of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
- Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) — Former general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who supported the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
- Tank man (坦克人) — The famous image of an unidentified Chinese man who stood in front of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
“China’s Communist Party is building a surveillance state unlike anything the world has ever seen,” Vice President Pence said at the Wilson Center in October. Censorship is the “hallmark of [China’s] regime.”
This story was originally published on November 20, 2019.