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You Can't Say "Hong Kong Police" Or "Umbrella" In China Today

Well, not on social media anyway. The Hong Kong Occupy Central protest has triggered mainland China’s biggest ever crackdown on Weibo, the country’s version of Twitter.

Posted on September 29, 2014, at 10:01 a.m. ET

The ongoing Occupy Central pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong has led the Chinese government to enforce its biggest-ever crackdown on social media.

Carlos Barria/Reuters
Tyrone Siu/Reuters

Instagram has been blocked on the mainland, meaning that images such as these can’t be seen there.

Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, which is constantly monitored by the government, has seen an unprecedented number of posts deleted.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

Many Hong Kong protesters switched from internet-based messaging services to FireChat, which doesn’t require an internet connection, in anticipation of a shutdown.

The app was downloaded around 100,000 times in 24 hours at the weekend. Up to 33,000 people were using it in Hong Kong at once, according to Open Garden, the company that developed it.

In addition to general news-based posts about the protests, phrases such as “Hong Kong police” and “Hong Kong tear gas” were censored on Weibo.


With so many protesters using umbrellas to shield themselves from police tear gas attacks, the term "Umbrella Revolution" took off on global social media to describe the occupation. The phrase has also been censored.

AP Photo/Wally Santana

Here are some messages that were censored, recorded by Weibo monitoring site

FreeWeibo / Via

This user wrote: “HK is the pilot field of ‘one country, two systems’, and the success of HK is really important since the Taiwanese residents are looking. Only kindergarten kids would believe that the the predicament of HK today is the result of plots led by a small group of hostile enemies, and that the government has little responsibility for it. The government has used its unlimited media resources and endless propaganda, while the effect is still not as persuasive as these plots ... which proves the fact that the giant propaganda system is a white elephant."

FreeWeibo / Via

This user wrote: “In the bigger context that the UK is allowing Scotland to go through a public referendum, all the Hong Kong residents want is to elect a chief governor in a one-person, one-vote way, they are not asking for independence, so what to worry about? Even though they elect one chief governor that is not so submissive to the central government, as long as he or she can manage HK well, what does it matter? It is the exact interpretation of ‘one country, two systems’, right? Under the spirit of ‘one country, two systems’, loving HK is loving China, right?”

FreeWeibo / Via

This user wrote: “Hong Kong residents and mainland residents may have conflicts. Both parties cannot view each other in the right way. As a Henanese living in Beijing, I definitely understand that regional discrimination is something we cannot do anything about. But if the Hong Kong residents are fighting for a general election I think it is a good thing, even if we don't have the same right in the mainland. Maybe in the future, if mainland residents are to fight for the same right, I think, the Hong Kong residents will support us even if they discriminate against us as locusts.”

While the protests made global news, Chinese state media predictably underplayed it. Here’s the BBC News homepage around 5 p.m. China time today.

BBC News / Via

And here’s the English language homepage of China’s state news agency Xinhua around the same time.

Xinhua / Via

Many believe that the Chinese government’s main motivation for quelling the protest, and news of it, is to prevent pro-democracy ideas spreading into the mainland.

Currently Hong Kong is ruled under a "one party, two systems" method, which sees the region’s inhabitants enjoy freedom of speech and a free press, unlike their mainland counterparts.

However, last month Beijing said that despite protesters pushing for genuine democracy, in the 2017 chief executive election nominees will have to be approved by a largely pro-central government committee. Occupy Central is demanding that Beijing reverses this decision.

Amazingly, one Chinese TV station claimed that the thousands of people gathered in Hong Kong were there to celebrate National Day.

Twitter: @MissXQ / Via Twitter

This was Shanghai Dragon Television's China News Service.

State-approved newspaper Global Times did, however, take the chance to warn protesters that they were “doomed” and threaten use of armed forces if they persisted.

An opinion piece in the newspaper read, "The radical activists are doomed. Opposition groups know well it's impossible to alter the decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Hong Kong's political reform plan.

"Street movements can evolve into revolution when more demonstrators become embroiled in them. However, Hong Kong is not a country; it neither has the conditions for a 'colour revolution', nor are the forces on the street influential enough to mobilise its entire populace."

As of late evening Hong Kong time, protesters were continuing their occupation.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

One Occupy Central leader, Chan Kin-man, said this afternoon: "Hong Kongers are fearless towards tear gas and think it is manageable. So I would not suggest protesters retreat at this moment."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.