This week offered another insight into how little it takes to be blocked in China. Ren Zhiqiang, a highly influential businessman and commentator, offered a mild criticism of President Xi Jinping’s campaign to tighten control over state-run media. The result was the the government blocked him from Internet sites for spreading “illegal information” and having a “negative impact.” The result of being blocked by sites like Sina Corp.’s Weibo and Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s QQ was the loss of access to more than 37 million followers on Weibo alone. Of course, his complaints are meritless since the chief censor of China announced recently that there is no censorship in China . . . and he should, after all, know. He is the chief censor.
Ren is the former chairman of Huayuan Property Co. and remains chairman of Beijing Huayuan Haoli Investment Co. Notably, he is also a close friend of the Communist Party’s discipline chief Wang Qishan. He told Bloomberg News in an interview last year that the two make frequent phone calls and meet a few times every year. Ren posted his views after Xi went on a chilling tour of media outlets warning journalists and editors that criticism would not be tolerated and that all of their writings must “reflect the will” of the party and “preserve the authority of the party.”
Ren responded with a post on his Weibo account criticizing the president’s assertion that the state media serve the party when taxpayers fund its budget. He asked “When does the people’s government turn into the party’s government?” That’s it. That is all it takes. The posts were deleted and now Ren has been effectively deleted.
In addition, government media has accused Ren of “anti-Communist Party” thought — as if the Chinese system (with a record number of party-connected billionaires) is a true Communist nation. China is more appropriated viewed as an authoritarian system held by a ruling class — a red aristocracy.
History, however, has shown that censorship rarely maintains a regime and that truth, like water, has a manner of finding a way out. Indeed, the crackdown of the Chinese regime on lawyers, public interest advocates, and journalists reflects a deep seated fear that it would take little for the public to ignite and then unite in opposition.