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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

China pushes back against opinionated blogs

Associated Press

BEIJING — Best-selling Chinese author Murong Xuecun had nearly 4 million followers on his Twitter-like microblog. One day in May his account disappeared. So did his profiles on several other social media sites. No explanation was given, but one is starting to emerge.

Many famous Chinese — from pop stars to scholars, journalists to business tycoons — have amassed substantial online followings, and these larger-than-life personalities don’t always hew to the Communist Party line. Now Beijing is tightening its grip on China’s already heavily restricted Internet by making influential microbloggers uncomfortable when they post material the government doesn’t like.

Murong, whose real name is Hao Qun, is among those whose microblog accounts have been silenced in recent months. Over the past two weeks, Internet censors have called microbloggers to meetings and state media have accused some of undermining socialism and promoting Western values through lies and negative news.

It is a development that dims hopes China’s new Communist Party leadership under Xi Jinping will tolerate more freewheeling discussion on the Internet and in the official media.

Many of the online personalities call attention to social injustices and question government policies. Some are advocates for democracy, freedom of speech and human rights, and others are radicals who believe China has strayed from its communist roots.