Posts began appearing earlier today on Chinese social media sites, most notably Sina Microblog (Weibo), saying that a mass demonstration was happening in the northern city of Dalian to oppose a chemical plant that has been placed near residential areas. Posts were quickly controlled, however, and now all related material is being scrubbed from the internet. While censorship of overt references and images of the protests themselves is plainly dampening the social media impact, however, anger over the chemical project is still quite visible, with many users posting “Get out Fujia PX!” messages.
Here’s more on the story from Jonathan Watts at The Guardian.
The following is a screenshot of my own Sina Weibo account showing recent posts. At the top is a post I re-posted earlier to my own followers that showed a picture of streets in Dalian filled with marching protesters. My comments and those of other to the original post with the photograph are still visible, but the original post has been replaced with a notice that says: “This microblog post has already been deleted by the user.”
Was this actually deleted by the user, or by the service? That’s a question to follow up later. This same user posted numerous times, first identifying Dalian as the place pictured, then removing mention of Dalian because keyword blocks were preventing the post. It’s hard to imagine this user then deciding on their own to delete successfully posted content. But this is of course just speculation.
The following are two photographs posted by the above-mentioned user that are apparently — but we can’t confirm this — of protests going on in Dalian. Readers should also look at the series posted by Chinese blogger Bei Feng to Google +, which suggest this is a very well organized demonstration, which pre-planned posters, t-shirts and some very savvy slogans (the symbol of the collective “middle-finger” may be the image of China in 2011).
Users on Sina Microblog have also been sharing an English news release on the protests that has been released by the official Xinhua News Agency. A Chinese release does not currently come up through a news search on Baidu, nor had anything been posted on Xinhua Online as of 4:16pm Sunday.
Other related terms on social media are being blocked. Here, for example, is a search I attempted using the word “stroll,” or sanbu (散步), which has become euphemism in Chinese for demonstration. Again, the notice says this content cannot be shown under relevant laws and policies.
Here is another image appearing on Sina Weibo on Sunday afternoon, again without any direct identification owing to keyword blocks.
Here is a recent re-posting of an August 8 post in which a user on Sina Weibo shared a screenshot of China Central Television coverage of the local opposition in Dalian to the PX project.
Some social media users, like this one in Shanghai, have replaced their profile photos with black signs that say, “Fujia PX, get out of Dalian!”
Signs like these are apparently being use in the Dalian protests, if we can assume, that is, that the following images shared on social media are authentic. The black square at the center of the four photographs reads: “Today let the whole country do its part for the residents of Dalian!”
The following image was also posted to Sina Weibo on Sunday evening around 5pm.
And another post shared Sunday evening included an image of what appears to be a message on someone’s iPhone that reads:
Just now a broadcast on the square shouted out that the governement will relocated the PX project as soon as possible, but to remove it scientifically will require some time, so an urgent notice will first be given to the enterprise to cease production. There was applause on the square, and this demonstrates that the public will has won out. People have gradually begun to leave the square, but 20 popular representatives are still posted outside the doors of the government.
If that announcement was made, perhaps these leaders, pictured standing atop an emergency vehicle in Dalian, were the ones to make it.
The following is a strip of photos from Dalian posted to a Sina Weibo account on Sunday evening.
The following set of photos was posted to Sina Weibo just after midnight, August 15, 2011.
The following image was posted by the “Newspaper Observer” microblog to Sina Weibo on August 15. It clearly shows a photograph of the actual morning edition of Dalian’s Peninsula Morning Post newspaper, with a large front-page article bearing the headline, “Fujian PX Project to Immediately Stop Production and be Relocated.” The underlined portion under the headline refers to city leaders “meeting with city masses yesterday.” But the paper’s online digital edition has apparently been cleansed, and shows instead an article about an upcoming vehicle expo.
The following photo of the August 15 edition of Dalian Evening Post also shows that coverage of the decision to relocated the PX project made the front page. Underlined portion is again reference to leaders meeting with the masses, which suggests the decision is in response to demonstrations, a highly sensitive issue.