The shuttering of a prominent Maoist website by China's powerful Internet censors is evidence that President Xi Jinping's administration is continuing its determined clampdown on any form of public debate, analysts say.
The East Is Red website was closed down by the Beijing Communications Administration this week because of "ideological problems," according to posts on China's Twitter-like service.
The site, which aimed to "propagate Marxist-Leninist and Maoist Thought, to support the truth and to refute error," was a key online presence for China's vocal leftist political camp.
But according to Beijing-based political analyst Chen Yongmiao, the site was shuttered for "ideological problems," suggesting that the ruling Chinese Communist Party is clamping down further on public debate wherever it is on the political spectrum.
"There are really only two factions in China today; the government faction and the people faction," Chen said. "The distinction between leftists and rightists has no importance compared with the standoff between the government and the people."
He said contemporary leftists in China include those who are staunchly pro-government and others who are more populist in their approach.
"The rules of the game under the Chinese Communist Party are that no organizations will be allowed to play at politics outside the government system," Chen said.
"If you do, the government will wipe you out, lock you up, or place you under surveillance," he said.
"The conflict between the government and the people is the only one that matters now."
A warning to both sides
A prominent tweeter known by his nickname @chaojidisutufu, or "Super vulgar butcher," said the closure of the The East is Red website was a clear shot across the bow to any other political activists in China, regardless of their goals or ideology.
"The party is targeting both left and right now, and they aren't happy about the leftist camp," he said.
"The Maoist left is sometimes unhappy with the status quo because of corruption, and the mood they express is sometimes at odds with the main party line."
"This means they have to be eliminated," he said
He said the clampdown is unlikely to be relaxed after the politically sensitive 25th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 military crackdown on student-led protests in Tiananmen Square.
"Last year, Document No. 9 issued by the party leadership made it very clear that online public opinion was being regarded as a top priority in terms of the threat to party rule," Chaojidisutufu said.
"They don't care if you're a Maoist and a communist; they only care if you are a threat to stability and a threat to the regime," he added.
"The Chinese Communist Party is going to eliminate and control all [such threats]."
Moves against the left
The closure of The East Is Red isn't the only move being made against leftist thinkers in China.
Recently, leftist professor Ai Yuejin of Nankai University had all his speaking engagements canceled, while fellow leftist professor Zhang Hongliang was told to end contact with overseas broadcasters, including the Voice of America, sources told RFA.
In January 2013, around 200 prominent left-wing Maoists penned an open letter to China's leaders, complaining about the closure of many of their websites since April 2012. They were later re-opened.
The closures had come shortly after the fall of former Chongqing ruling Chinese Communist Party chief Bo Xilai, who enjoyed widespread support on the left of the party and who was later jailed for life on corruption charges.
China's censors shut down left-wing websites including The East is Red, Utopia, and Mao Flag. Around the same time, authorities in the southwestern city of Chongqing quickly shut down all activities linked to Bo's populist policies.
Amateurs who had once regularly gathered in a square in the city center to sing "red songs," revolutionary anthems from the Mao era, were told to stop. The meetings had been part of a high-profile policy by Bo's municipal government to encourage a return to "purer" socialist values.
But China's leaders hit back with warnings of the perils of a return to the political turmoil and endless factional warfare seen during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
Reported by Wen Jian for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.