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Interactive Gallery of Images Censored on Sina Weibo

BY Jessica McKenzie | Friday, November 15 2013

Bo Xilai has his own category of censored photos (Wikipedia)

Yesterday ProPublica launched an interactive photo gallery of all of the images deleted since May from the popular Chinese microblogging site, Sina Weibo. In those five months, a program has been checking 100 Weibo accounts, noting which posts contain an image and of those, which are deleted. Of the 80,000 posts collected, more than 5 percent (roughly 4,200) were deleted.

The image gallery contains 527 deleted images, organized into 10 categories. Political speech is by far the largest category, followed by long text and dissidents (you might notice some overlap). The other topics include: protests, scandals & corruption, censorship, and public figures (although Bo Xilai and Wang Lin get their own categories).

Every picture is given context and either translated or summarized, as in the case of the long text category. The captions were written by volunteers fluent in Mandarin, but ProPublica warns that they cannot confirm the accuracy of their work.

One of the censored items is a vintage image of servants bearing a sedan chair, once used by the rich to get around, that is accompanied by a satirical call to return to such a system:

1. It's environmentally friendly. 2. With over 800 officials in China, if each sedan needs 4 people to carry, it would create many jobs. 3. It significantly reduces the number of government cars. 4. It eliminates traffic jams. 5. It promotes innovation in this area and again increases employment. 6. It facilitates the historical act of anyone stopping the sedan chairs to plead their grievances to the government.

Another image is of a letter, signed in red ink with dozens of fingerprints. The caption reads:

This letter of appeal was signed and fingerprinted by an entire village in Hubei province in early July 2013. They are protesting the seizure of their land by China Co-op Group director Feng Guozhi, and are outraged that he is only concerned with making a profit by selling land that never belonged to him in the first place. The villagers insist they will not back down from this "life or death scenario."

The detail and variety in both the images and the captions are moving, depressing and darkly humorous in turn. It's an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of a Chinese censor.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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