China Deletes Song Praising President Xi's Anti-Corruption Campaign

china-li-lei-song-sept-2014.JPG A screen grab from Li Lei's music video.
Photo courtesy of Li Lei

Chinese censors have deleted a satirical song about President Xi Jinping and rampant official corruption after it garnered tens of thousands of views on the country's tightly controlled Internet.

The video of the song, titled "Let's Protect Our Xi Jinping" and performed by Li Lei, a netizen better known by his online nickname of "Red Uncle," was inaccessible on Chinese video-sharing sites on Tuesday after being posted at the weekend.

"We have a fearless helmsman," Li sings, in an apparently satirical reference to late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

"He will kill the tigers and the flies, so the people can rest assured, and officials' and gangsters' vested interests will be subdued," sings Li, who has already had previous musical offerings on the Arab Spring and an ousted late premier censored.

"We must crack down harshly on corruption, ruling by law and not by the individual," sings Li in a copy of the video obtained by RFA and posted to YouTube.

The lyrics are entirely in line with a nationwide anti-corruption campaign launched by Xi, targeting high-ranking "tigers" and low-ranking "flies," since coming to power in November 2012.

But the party regards any popular involvement in the anti-corruption campaign as highly sensitive and potentially threatening, and has already sentenced a number of activists to jail for calling on officials to reveal their wealth.

'Forces of evil'

Li told RFA on Tuesday he wanted to give voice to the behind-the-scenes struggle between "good" and "bad" characters in China's political drama, ahead of a top meeting of the ruling Chinese Communist Party next month.

"All the different interest groups will getting ready, jockeying for position behind the scenes from now until the 4th plenum [of the 18th Party Congress]," Li said.

"Songs like [mine] can help us in the battle against the forces of evil."

When more than 200 member of the party's powerful Central Committee meet in October, on a date that has yet to be confirmed, the formal corruption probe into former security czar Zhou Yongkang looks set to dominate the behind-closed-doors discussions.

The rule of law is the official theme of this year's plenum, and Zhou's investigation by the party's disciplinary body for alleged "serious violations" of discipline is likely already the result of months of internal debate over whether to break with traditional taboos on investigating former or existing members of the all-powerful Politburo standing committee, political analysts have said.

"In any drama or opera, you have goodies and baddies," Li said. "I wanted to sing the praises of all those in the party who work for the interests of the people, and for society as a whole."

He said some people had accused him of currying favor with the government, however.

"I wrote this song the way I did because we have to do our creative work within the existing political environment," Li said.

But he added: "[Artistic censorship] is getting stricter and stricter, and some things are censored as soon as they appear online."

Video blocked

Li said popular video sharing site Liujianfang had refused outside to post his video.

"They have the right, and they are businesspeople, and they have to consider the interests of their business," he said.

"Now it's pretty hard for people [inside China] to see it, because it's not showing up in search engines."

Li's collaborator Liu Xingying, who composed the song, said President Xi needs to be protected to aid the fight against corruption.

"As creative workers, we are extremely supportive of Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign," Liu said.

"I find the lyrics very moving, as he is speaking with the voice of the people," he said.

Egyptian protests

Li's work first came to the attention of China's Internet police when he posted a revolutionary-style anthem in support of the Egyptian revolution in February 2011.

The video, titled "Go Egypt, the Awakened Lion Roars!", was rapidly picked up and passed along by netizens across China, apparently striking a chord with many.

His song proclaimed that a lack of human rights and equality were the reasons for Egpytian poverty, with the video depicting Li singing against a background of news footage of demonstrators on Cairo's Liberation Square.

China launched a nationwide crackdown on rights activists, dissidents, and civil rights campaigners in the wake of the Arab Spring, apparently fearing that the wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East would spark similar unrest at home.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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