April Fool Site Deleted

Authorities target an online post that lampoons problems in Chinese society.

china-internet-censor-305.jpg Internet surfers at a cafe in Beijing, Jan. 15, 2009.

Chinese authorities have removed an April Fool's hoax on a popular news site predicting the end of civilization with satirical news reports.

One of the pages of the "Happy Times" hosted by NetEase predicted that civilization would end in the next 19 months, according to the Mayan prophecy referenced in the movie "2012."

Only Chinese people, strengthened by years of absorbing poisons through tainted foodstuffs and fake medicines, were expected to survive, the bogus report said.

A second satirical headline read: "Apartments too expensive and too strong: residents call for forced eviction."

"Craze for buying Chinese goods engulfs the world," ran another.

Netizens searched for duplicates of the deleted "newspaper" to post on bulletin boards.

"It didn't take long for this to get blocked," wrote netizen tianchufengyun on the York BBS forum, alongside an image of the "Happy Times" front page.

"What scoundrel blocked this?" commented user Agony. "I'll block his sister."

'A form of promotion'

Blogger Zan Aizong said NetEase had obviously judged the mood of Chinese netizens correctly.

"The fact that it was deleted means that it had an impact in spite of the government," he said.

"The deletion is just a one-off," he said. "You can't entirely delete the voice of the ordinary people."

"Maybe if they hadn't deleted it, only 100 people would have seen it, but as soon as it's deleted, the news reaches 500 or 1,000 people."

"Deletion is a form of promotion," Zan said. "A lot more people are going to be interested in it now."

Meanwhile, a poll on the popular Web portal Sina asked netizens to find a true statement from amid a number of false ones.

"Property prices will come down; salaries will go up; taxes will be cut; food safety will be guaranteed; officials will declare their private assets; wealth will be evenly distributed and nuclear power stations will be safe," the poll choices read.

At the end of the list, readers were advised that all of the statements were false.

Great Firewall

China has imposed a complex system of blocks, keyword filters and human censorship on its 457 million netizens, known collectively as the Great Firewall, or GFW.

Internet services in the troubled northwestern region of Xinjiang were subject to a full and then partial lockdown since ethnic rioting was sparked in July 2009 by a Uyghur demonstration in the regional capital, Urumqi.

Even when general online access was restored more than 300 days later, popular Uyghur-language websites still remained offline, with some editors of Uyghur websites detained under national security charges.

Experts say the transition to IPv6 network addresses, from the current generation of IPv4 addresses used to identify computers and devices online, could give Beijing a far more powerful tool in the continuing development of its system of Internet blocks and filters.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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