Netizens debate Bo Xilai despite censorship

Bo Xilai adjusts his glasses during the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, 3 March 2012 Internet users have been getting round restrictions to post their comments on Bo Xilai

China's decision to strip political superstar Bo Xilai of his Politburo post has prompted lively discussion in cyber space, despite renewed internet censorship.

Social media platforms such as Sina Weibo and Baidu Tieba are filtering posts with keywords such as "Bo Xilai", "Gu Kailai" and "Heywood". Attempts to search these phrases return no results.

Twitter-like Weibo posts on Bo Xilai have been filtered on and off since the scandal surrounding Bo Xilai and his wife began to unfold.

Although the reinstated filters make it hard for people to look for comments, China's internet users have managed to tweet - and re-tweet - some 1m posts on the latest developments so far.

Netizens use the hash-tag "important news" for posts on the issue, and "Wood" instead of "Heywood" when discussing the British businessman whose death Bo Xilai's wife is being questioned about.

Some Weibo users express their frustration over the censorship, while others praise those who came up with the workarounds for their creativity.

"Do you really have to do this, Sina? There is already a press release from the central government," wrote a Weibo user in Guangzhou, who put on the "important news" tag.

The logo of Sina Corp's Chinese microblog website "Weibo" (file photo) Many micro-blog users complain that sites such as Sina Weibo are filtering their comments

A user from Shanghai posted an alert that he received from the site moderator notifying him that his tweet about Neil Heywood's death "had been encrypted".

Another from the southern city of Shenzhen who managed to scale the Great Firewall of China also expressed his discontent over the censorship. "All I can say is, fake democracy is thinner than paper," he said.

In terms of the comment, some users question whether the fact that Mr Heywood was a British citizen led to Beijing's "swift" action, saying that if it were the death of an ordinary Chinese person, it would just be covered up.

However, most of the posts on micro-blogs and online forums that have not been filtered praise Beijing's actions.

"He's indeed a good student of [reformist leaders] Zhao (Ziyang) and Hu (Yaobang). Premier Wen will leave a good record in history," said a thread in Baidu Tieba, praising Wen Jiabao for removing Bo Xilai.

This fits with the official line. CPCNews.cn, a website run by the People's Daily, runs an online report saying many netizens support the investigations into the Bo family.

It was quite hard to find any comment in support of Mr Bo. One, posted on Baidu Tieba, read: "I feel sad to see the news about Mr Bo. He is in his 60s. Please leave him in peace!"

But one Twitter user from Shanghai said the scandal was "more interesting than any other 8pm TV drama".

Media quiet

Meanwhile, most major newspapers only published the brief statement by Xinhua News Agency on Mr Bo's removal, as well as the Xinhua report on the detention of Gu Kailai, Mr Bo's wife.

They also published a front page commentary by the People's Daily which calls for people to support the government's actions, but refrain from making their own comments on the issue.

The Global Times ran a bilingual editorial which stressed stability, but it is actually a subsidiary of the People's Daily.

Beijing News is among the rare outlets which ran its own editorial. It says the only way to maintain stability is for the government to release updates on important events in a timely manner.

Shanghai's China Business News runs a commentary that reacts indirectly to Mr Bo's suspension.

There is only one possible outcome for those who attempt to break the law but expect no consequences, it says, "which is when you have the strength to lift the rock, you only throw it towards yourself".

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