16 August 2013
The official in charge of the internet in China has called for celebrities to promote virtue among their followers on social media. The official, Lu Wei, said famous people should inform against any activities that could be harmful.
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Lu Wei's comments appear to have been provoked by an incident last month in which a popular Chinese singer, Wu Hongfei, was arrested after she published a message threatening to blow up a local government building. She was eventually released, but her message sparked a huge debate about freedom of speech.
Lu Wei is trying to enlist that sort of influence in the hope of pleasing both the Communist Party, which is desperate to maintain power, and millions of young internet users, equally desperate for the freedom to say whatever they want.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese people use the internet, and its influence has worried the Communist Party for years, particularly when the central government becomes a target. For example, in March last year, a number of websites carried rumours that there was a coup going on in Beijing. All of them were shut down and their owners were arrested. For China's leaders, controlling the internet has become a routine part of controlling the country.
Click here to hear the vocabulary
caused a reaction
saying he will do something
started, caused to start
- freedom of speech
being able to say or write whatever you like without government interference
feeling hopeless about a situation
focus, the central point
suggestions, without proof, that something might be true
illegal seizure of power from the government