For the past three hours or so, I have been captivated by the situation in Egypt, where it appears at this time (about 6 A.M. China time) that the Egyptian president Mubarak may already have been overthrown, or at the very least faces a dire threat to his legitimacy from the massive protests that have resulted in, among other things, the burning and looting of his political party’s official headquarters.
(EDIT: Or maybe not? Mubarak finally showed up at 6:20 and made a speech on Egyptian TV, so he’s at least still in the country. I am now going to sleep.)
Of course, this is an extremely sensitive issue for China, given that the protests in Egypt are motivated primarily by factors that exist in China, too: wealth disparity, corruption, censorship, etc. Of course, China is not Egypt. But the spin machine is still running.
Xinhua’s Chinese site doesn’t feature the Egypt story prominently. At present, the big headline story is about Wen Jiabao calling the German Prime Minister. The only headline on the site that mentions Egypt is this short blurb about Hong Kong officials announcing a travel warning for Egypt. There are Xinhua stories about the riots, but they are clearly being buried, none of them appear on Xinhua’s crowded front page.
Xinhua’s English site does mention the protests on the front page, in this story, which describes the protests but makes no attempt to explain why they are occurring.
Word of the revolutionary protests is spreading on Weibo and through BBS forums, but appears to be being scrubbed just as quickly. Attempts to link to Al-Jazeera’s live coverage of the story resulted repeatedly in Sina’s Weibo service displaying an error message about “forbidden” content. Some Weibo messages have mentioned Egypt, but the topic appears to have been scrubbed from the trending topics on Weibo, where it hasn’t appeared in the top 50 all night.
Now, of course, all of these could just be because it’s late at night, and news reporters are, by and large, asleep. But netizens discussing the issue on BBS forums are reporting threads on this topic are being deleted rapidly, so it seems likely Xinhua’s omissions and Weibo’s squeaky-clean trending topics are not coincidental.
One wonders what the Chinese government is thinking about all this revolution in the Middle East. I feel quite certain they are not amused. As it’s now 6 A.M., I’m not going to take much more of an analytical leap than that right now, but feel free to discuss it in the comments. Below, I’ve translated some of a post and some comments about the Egypt protests from Mop.
From this story about the protests on Mop.com. First, an excerpt from the original post, written before things exploded on Friday:
“What’s regrettable is that while China and Egypt have the same political system, China has devoted itself entirely to pursuing “harmony”, whereas Egypt has broken out in large scale protests and threats, directly calling for the president to step down. This is very difficult for Chinese people to understand. According to reports, the demonstrators were able to get together all at once because of communication through the internet. The incident exploded beyond the expectations of authorities, which is also something that couldn’t happen in China. From this, we can tell that Egypt’s system of information and internet management lags behind China’s
After [the first] protests were suppressed, the government quickly announced that these activities were illegal; as for what laws specifically were violated, that’s decided by the people holding the guns. I think in the future they will ban protesting, and ban speaking about “sensitive” things like “black jails”, “mental hospitals”, “death by being crushed under a wheel” ((These are all unsubtle references to things in China that have happened recently)). So I think the Egyptian people will continue to live in a monarchy for a long time, safe and content in paradise.”
“The original poster of this story has already been judged [by authorities] to be a counterrevolutionary.”
“I doubt this post will last a day [before being deleted].”
“Fuck, not having a government is the true “kingly way” [a reference to the title of the post, means not having a government is the best form or goverment]”
“Leaving my name before this gets harmonized.”
“Confucianism is slavery, the most useful narcotic of China’s feudal rulers.”
“Who’s name are you promoting this in? In the name of the people? At the very least, what you’ve said doesn’t represent my opinion.”
“In the Heavenly Kingdom [China] people are happy to sit around and watch rather than taking a stand.”
“I think the Egyptian political system is very similar to the “Heavenly Kingdom”, it’s just that the people are different…”
“The authorities in Egypt aren’t as experienced as the Heavenly Kingdom, start brainwashing in middle school, watch over the internet, if there’s a sign of trouble just arrest it ((literally, trans-province it, referring to police pursuing criminals across provincial borders)), break the backbone of the people, ensure they can never straighten or harden up, so they won’t dare to oppose, turning the Heavenly Kingdom into a police state.”