China Closes, Reopens Shandong-Based Poetry Forum

2006-04-10
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The logo of the forum's Shanghai-based Internet service provider. Image: Netsh.com

HONG KONG—Authorities in the eastern province of Shandong have closed and then apparently re-opened a popular Internet poetry forum after it posted articles critical of China’s education system and linked to the overseas news portal Boxun, which is blocked in China.

It seems they can just close down anything if they don’t like it. I thought we were going to have some space to express ourselves, but it seems that self-expression comes at a price.

In an interview with RFA’s Cantonese service, Lu Yang said he could think of no other reason for the closure, as the site’s content wasn’t at all politically sensitive.

“I don’t think this is a political Web site. So most of the articles on it weren’t political. I once wrote an article titled 'The Education of the Soul' and it was censored. So perhaps it was because of this,” Lu told RFA reporter Lillian Cheung.

“We are all poets…Looking again at the articles I really can’t see any problem with them.”

“It seems they can just close down anything if they don’t like it. I thought we were going to have some space to express our opinions, but it seems that self-expression comes at a price,” Lu said.

An official at the forum’s Internet service provider Shanghai Lequ Group confirmed the closure.

Reason for closure unclear

“We got an order from higher up to tell us to close down this Web site. I’m not allowed to tell you the reason for the closure,” she said.

Asked if this meant the government, she said: “Yes, yes, it was.”

Asked about the apparently apolitical nature of the site’s content, she replied: “Yes, I’m aware that this was the case, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t open it up again until we get the word from higher up.”

An official who answered the phone at the Shanghai municipal public security bureau’s Internet watchdog said it wasn’t the police who had ordered the forum closed. But the official said they were unaware where the order originated.

Lu’s forum was accessible both within and outside China on Monday.

Poems were mostly of a personal nature, with commentators critiquing them from the point of view of personal taste and literary merit.

It now includes a post reminding authors to limit their comments to personal views, and to avoid posting any material related to pornography, politics, military matters or foreign affairs.

The Chinese government has installed a nationwide filtering and monitoring system, including thousands of Internet police, who draw attention to any content critical of the Communist Party, or of government officials.

China’s modern poetry scene has flourished in recent years, but poems that address themes of soullessness, emptiness, and darkness under a materialist and authoritarian regime are considered politically suspect.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Lillian Cheung. RFA Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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