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China: No empty chair allowed online

Categories: China

Yesterday Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia could not attend the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Oslo, Norway. The Nobel Prize committee reserved an empty chair to symbolize Liu's presence.

In order to show their support for Liu and deliver the information about the Nobel Peace Prize across the Internet, many Chinese netizens have begun circulating images and stories of empty chair via forums, websites and microblogs two days before the Nobel ceremony. However, around yesterday afternoon, the Chinese word “空椅子” (meaning empty chair) has became a political sensitive term. All messages and images of empty chair in web forums and micro blogging sites were either deleted by the web censors or could not be viewed in the public timeline.

It seems that the censor machine has set up an alert system and yesterday it was alleviated to the “red” signal. Apart from the usual filtering of terms like Liu Xiaobo, Liu Xia, Nobel Prize, Peace Prize, there were some extraordinary features, EXSBN observed:


Yesterday the Great Fire Wall's engine was in its maximum mode. All Google's appspot platforms were blocked. Twitter's API ceased to show new messages, it was so quiet.

There were also reports [zh] saying that circumvention devices, such as Freegate could not function well in the past two days. Despite the difficulties, info-activist @wenyunchao still managed to collect a number of empty chair images from Chinese netizen under the Twitter tag #kongyizi. Below is the most popular one: