Continuing one of more bizarre stories to come out of China recently (and that’s up against some pretty stiff competition!), recent claims by China’s Sister Furong that she was the victim of a harsh Chinese Communist Party-sanctioned crackdown left many of us China residents scratching our heads. After all, she didn’t cross any of the usual (and real) lines of dissent that certainly do, in a lot of cases, result in censorship action by the Beijing authorities.
Are you a Chinese Internet phenomenon whose 15 minutes are nearly up, but who isn’t quite ready to go gentle into that good night? Just cry “censorship!” to members of the international press, and they’re likely to come to your rescue, transforming you overnight from marginal freak to free speech poster child.
“They’ve cracked down on me,” she recently lamented to a Reuters correspondent in Beijing, who reported that the Communist Party was now moving to wipe this icon off the Internet.
The corroborating evidence? The fact that “after blanket coverage earlier this year, newspapers, magazines, and television have recently given almost no time to Sister Furong,” the reporter wrote. The journalist’s story also repeated a claim made in July by the British newspaper The Independent that Party authorities had instructed the country’s leading blog host to bury Sister Hibiscus-related links in the deeper recesses of the site.
It’s clear that any government-sanctioned censorship would likely begin with Sister Furong’s blog-host provider Bokee.com (formerly BlogChina.com). However, the damning evidence is that a spokesman for Bokee.com has denied that any such instructions had been handed down. “No one from the government has said anything to us about Sister Hibiscus,” said Mai Tian, a director of Bokee.com. Mr. Mai noted that her blog, at furongjiejie.bokee.com, is still being updated several times a day and remains, by far, one of Bokee’s most visited blogs.
A Beijing Youth Daily reporter who covers society, Internet, and entertainment also denied hearing anything about government crackdown on Sister Hibiscus. It appears, therefore, that our Sister Furong with her flamboyant, vulgar poses and loud, tacky outfits cried “Wolf!” as soon as she started to fear that her 15 minutes of fame were over and her media attention began to wane.
That the western media could fall for her line of “They’ve banned me” hook, line and sinker says as much about China’s sometimes quite bizarre censorship practices as it does for the west’s over-simplified view of China. As Red Herring goes on to address:
The trouble is, there’s much truth to it. Beijing does restrict Internet content: many web sites, including most of the popular U.S.-based blog hosting sites like Blogger, Blogspot, Typepad, and Blogs.com. Google’s cached pages, the BBC web site, and most sites related to Tibet@n indep3ndence or the banned F@lun G0ng cult are not accessible without resort to proxy servers.
The non-China-related blogging community also made quite a fuss about the phenomenon. Indeed, I noticed commenters on some of the bigger blogs like The English Guy begging for more links to photos of the, let’s face it, very plain-looking Sister Furong. If anyone is truly interested in her photos, you’ll find them ALL at her site furongjiejie.bokee.com. Chinese language only, I’m afraid but trust me on this, you’re not missing anything in the writing! I’ll be happy to translate her most recent ramblings in the comments to this post.
Despite living in China, I was unable to fully understand or explain the Sister Furong phenomenon past the fact that what she did, i.e. post suggestive poses of herself in the public domain and whine about her supposed intellectual talents, was so very un-Chinese. To me, that was always at the heart of the phenomena, a simple curiosity towards someone making a bit of a fool of themselves.
Update: Check out Asiapundit’s great round-up on this
subject, including a very harsh but fair judgement by
Ms Rebecca McKinnion.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.