China: We (can’t) Chat: “709 Crackdown” Discussions Blocked on Weibo and WeChat

April 13, 2017

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Beginning in July 2015, over 250 Chinese rights lawyers, law firm staff, activists, and their relatives were detained by public security agents in China. The event was later dubbed the “709 Crackdown” (“709大抓捕”), marking when the first lawyer disappeared on July 9, 2015. In January 2017, an attorney of one of the detained rights lawyers issued transcriptions of a meeting with the detainee, detailing torture during police interrogations. Concerned citizens have taken to WeChat and Sina Weibo, two of the most popular social media platforms in China, to advocate for these lawyers and rights defenders.

This report is a continuation of research documenting content filtering on WeChat and Sina Weibo. Censorship on these platforms is dynamic and often reactive to news events.

Through a series of tests we found content related to the “709 Crackdown” blocked on both platforms. This censorship is implemented in ways that are not transparent to users, a continuation of trends we have seen in past research. Additionally, we provide evidence of images related to the event filtered on WeChat in both chat and WeChat Moments. This finding is the first documentation of image filtering on the app. Similar to keyword filtering, censorship of images, is only enabled for accounts registered to mainland China phone numbers. Our findings serves as a reminder to China-focused NGOs and individuals of the potential hindrances they may face when communicating on Chinese social media platforms.

https://citizenlab.org/2017/04/we-cant-chat-709-crackdown-discussions-blocked-on-weibo-and-wechat/

http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/crackdown-04142017105030.html

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2088540/chinas-party-officials-warned-not-cross-red-lines-while

http://www.networkworld.com/article/3190704/security/meanwhile-in-china-surveillance-required-on-public-wi-fi.html

https://www.vpncompare.co.uk/public-wi-fi-in-china-now-subject-to-surveillance/

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2087515/chinas-communist-party-evaluate-lawyers-based-political

http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2017/04/new-rankings-place-lawyers-politics-experience/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/04/12/france-should-confront-china-rights

http://www.praguemonitor.com/2017/04/13/czechs-ask-china-check-torture-human-rights-defenders

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/04/15/can-western-universities-operating-china-ignore-human-rights-legal-perspective/

https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2017/04/12/la-france-devrait-confronter-la-chine-la-question-des-droits-humains (FRANCAIS)

http://www.ouest-france.fr/monde/chine/comment-la-chine-censure-en-douce-les-reseaux-sociaux-4936249 (FRANCAIS)

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