Last updated at 14:12 BST, Thursday, 15 August 2013

China: Celebrities to promote virtue

Summary

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.

Reporter:

Joe Boyle

China social networking on a mobile

Millions of young Chinese people use social media sites

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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.

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Vocabulary

provoked

caused a reaction

threatening

saying he will do something

sparked

started, caused to start

freedom of speech

being able to say or write whatever you like without government interference

desperate

feeling hopeless about a situation

target

focus, the central point

rumours

suggestions, without proof, that something might be true

coup

illegal seizure of power from the government

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