Chinese Internet users are seething after discovering the country’s official news outlet, Xinhua, owns a Twitter account.
Twitter is blocked in China, so if you want to tweet from beyond the great firewall you’ve first got to jump through some pretty illegal hoops. Unless you’re the government, apparently.
@XHNews, active since March 1, spams headlines and photos from the news organization to about 7,000 followers. It doesn’t follow anyone back. And, just as you’d expect from an official account by the People’s Republic of China, it never responds directly to anyone.
Users of the Chinese version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, weren’t very happy about all this.
“I am going to report this to the police: Xinhua is obviously breaching our internet laws" read one post, translated by the South China Morning Post.
And another: "Xinhua has proved itself a traitor who has chosen an evil path.” (The “evil path” a sarcastic turn on a recently popular political slogan).
Others are responding directly on Twitter. “Xinhua climbing over the great firewall to Tweet. It’s shameful,” wrote Twitter user Vincent. His compatriot, Zhang Yang, was slightly more direct: “You’re a stupid cu*t,” he or she wrote.
The account isn’t verified, so we’re not entirely sure it’s official. But Anthony Tao, editor of China blog Beijing Cream, pointed out that @XHNews was the first organization to break some big news earlier this, which certainly suggests an official hand.
“Once again, ‘rule of law’ has been made a mockery of," Tao wrote. "In China, a law is only a law if you don’t know how to get away with breaking it.”
There’s no doubt Chinese officials watch their citizens behavior closely on Twitter. One ominous sign of the breadth of the state’s social media surveillance came on Nov. 7, when Beijinger Zhao Xiaobin was detained after tweeting a joke directed at China’s leadership. He has yet to return. Meanwhile, his wife has gone quiet on Twitter in an apparent attempt to “placate the authorities,” according to the Epoch Times.
Photo via Ryan McLaughlin/Flickr