China erases Internet comments on death of Pope John Paul II

Some commenters here were discussing why China has been relatively silent about the passing of the Pope, and some argued that the event has little to no significane to most Chinese. That makes sense enough to me; I can’t imagine Americans being very interested in, say, the death of a Buddhist leader in Thailand.

So when I saw this article, I was somewhat surprised — if the Chinese don’t care about the Pope’s death, why are so many trying to comment on it? And why is someone trying to stop them?

China’s web portals have blocked prayers, blessings and other comment on the death of Pope John Paul II from being posted on the Internet, officials said.

While popular portals such as and’s on-line discussion forums were flooded with messages about the pope Saturday, no messages could be seen Monday.

An official with confirmed the company had censored the comments, using sophisticated technology to allow only the writer to see his or her own comments.

“Religious issues are special. We are afraid of problems arising,” said a Sohu official.

“It’s not that they are taken off, it just means whoever issued the statement, only they can see it. Other people cannot see it,” the official told AFP.

Asked whether the portal had received an order from the government, the official insisted it was the company’s own decision.

No, I’m sure the CCP wouldn’t butt its head into religious issues. Why would anyone think that? Oh, and please note the doublespeak: “It’s not that they are taken off, it just means whoever issued the statement, only they can see it.” If no one else can see it, isn’t that the same as being taken off? Censorship by any other name….

Via CDN.

UPDATE: See this article for more on how the Pope is being mourned in China. (Thanks, Lisa.)

The Discussion: 20 Comments

NY Times just put up an article about Chinese Catholics and the Pope’s death:

April 4, 2005 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

While I don’t believe in the websites’ self censorship, I must say the Chinese media’s official stance is a refreshing break from the pope-fixation seen in the western media. Frankly, I’m rather see news coverage about the political crisis in Kyrgyzstan than the relentless coverage seen of late in the western media about an irrelevant religious figure with views and values that belong in the last millenium. Why they pulled the tube on the pope without controversy like that surrounding Terri Schiavo is beyond me. I think the pope should have been kept alive in a vegetative state for at least another 15 years. The church deserves nothing less.

April 4, 2005 @ 7:02 pm | Comment

The Pope, of course, was never in a vegetative state. Weak and helpless, but alert and bright to the end. His feeding tube was never removed.

You’re totally right about the Western media fixation on his death. It was exactly the same when Reagan died — endless, repetitive, embarrassingly saccharine tributes and praises and tedious anecdotes. Enough.

However, China’s approach is too extreme. You’d hope there could be a compromise somewhere.

April 4, 2005 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

I can’t help it. “Generalissimo Francsico Franco is STILL dead.”

April 5, 2005 @ 12:23 am | Comment

Good news for Chinese Catholics?

Report: Vatican Ready to Cut Ties with Taiwan
HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Vatican is ready to cut ties with Taiwan and talk to China about establishing relations, the head of the Hong Kong Roman Catholic diocese was reported on Tuesday as saying.
China broke links with the Holy See in the 1950s after expelling foreign clergy and forces believers to join the state-sanctioned China Patriotic Catholic Association — which pledges loyalty to Beijing instead of the Pope — if they want to worship openly.

“The Holy See has been thinking of giving up Taiwan,” Bishop Joseph Zen was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying after a Mass in Hong Kong on Monday. “This is a difficult (decision), but it has decided to do it.

“There is, however, no way that (it would) do so before negotiations. We have got to start the negotiation before talking about what we can give.”

China on Sunday expressed its condolences on the death of Pope John Paul II and said it hoped to improve relations with his successor but on condition that the Vatican cut ties with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a breakaway province.

The Vatican estimates it has about eight million followers in China, compared with about five million who follow the state-backed association.

“If the Holy See does not establish (diplomatic) ties with China, Catholics there will not have real freedom,” Zen said.

Zen could not immediately be reached for comment.

April 5, 2005 @ 1:50 am | Comment

There are two different things happening at the same time:

1. China(‘s media) has been relatively silent about Pope;
2. Chinese people have been relatively silent.

Both are true; more people had heard of Princess Diana than of Pope. But the media censorship made Chinese appear even more silent than they actually are.

And if we look at the big picture, both are the end result of CCP’s long standing policy hostile to Vatican and any form of spirituality.

Western media is not free from sin. For example, I only heard Pope’s remarks of communism (“the good value of caring the poor”) on NPR. All other channels run the risk of portraying Pope in a way that he himself would not have approved, I fear.

April 5, 2005 @ 2:01 am | Comment

The reason China wants to get warmer with Vatican is not giving catholics more freedom, but to further isolate Taiwan diplomatically. The underground church won’t join hand with government approved ‘catholics’, anyways, so I cannot see what Vatican can achieve from a full tie with Beijing.

April 5, 2005 @ 2:08 am | Comment




April 5, 2005 @ 6:04 am | Comment

Schtickyrice, although I’m an atheist I found your comments about the Pope a bit ridiciulous. Whether you personally liked the man or identified with his views or not is irrelevant to whether his death is newsworthy.

He was a fairly influential world figure no matter how you look at it. There are Catholics in most cultures and on most continents. Criticising the media coverage as being somehow racist or Western-centric overlooks just how many non-Western, non-white Catholics there are in the world – some of the most devout Catholics I’ve met have been from places like Bruni, Singapore, Ghana and Nigeria. They’re also, incidently, where the hardline conservatives tend to be.

April 5, 2005 @ 6:59 am | Comment

I don’t feel much about the passing of the Pope at all but then I am not a Catholic. However my grandmother was a surpersititious Catholic who would break any porcelain dishes with dragons on it. My Aunt is a Catholic nun and a principal in a high school. My sister has become a Catholic, (so that her children can go to Catholic schools?)

April 5, 2005 @ 10:57 am | Comment


I understand that the saddest moments for you were that when Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping died.

What a failure of American education!

April 5, 2005 @ 12:52 pm | Comment

What if the Vatican elect a Chinese cardinal from underground Catholic church there, whose name Pope John Paul II had kept secret? Or a Viatnamese cardinal?

It’s high time to alert the world that China is public enemy No. 1 of all faithfuls, and give long due credit for those suffered, tortured, and murdered since 1949.

April 5, 2005 @ 4:48 pm | Comment


There’s good reason why the Vatican is giving up on Taiwan. The evangelical Christians have them beat, no contest! Same with Korea.


You are entitled to your opinions. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so hard on the pope if his views didn’t have such a huge bearing on the Terri Schiavo circus that just proceeded it. Anyhow, his feeding tube was not pulled as Richard had pointed out so I stand corrected. Just the same, I still stand by my opinion that the western media’s coverage on his death was overblown. I never insinuated that racism had anything to with it whatsoever. That was your assumption. Yes, he was an influential world figure and that’s part of the problem.

April 5, 2005 @ 6:55 pm | Comment

Bellevue, dude, you are undercutting your own arguments by these kinds of egregious overstatements. JR made a pretty measured comment about the Pope, and you accuse him of worshipping Mao? Where did that come from?!

For the record, I think the whole Pope-a-thon is way overblown, but I try to keep in mind that his passing is a significant thing to millions of people and that, for better and for worse (both, I think), his policies had a huge impact on the world.

April 6, 2005 @ 1:45 am | Comment

Whether you’re a Catholic or not, the Pope was a peacemaker, he had no army, he couldn’t impose sanctions, and he couldn’t threaten anybody, yet he had a more profound influence and peaceful on the late twentieth century any world leader.

He also recognized, without prejudice, the role of non white, both in the church and in society.

Whether you think of him as a man or a messanger, he does not deserve to be censored. Censoring the Pope becasue he was a religious leader is like censoring Martin Luther King JR for being black in a white mans world.

China should be (even more) ashamed or itself.

April 6, 2005 @ 2:12 am | Comment

Lisa: My response was not provoked by a single post here, but certain pattern displayed in a serie of comments.

This is a free nation, and JR is entitled to his love for communist China, let alone his resentment for anything America.

April 6, 2005 @ 2:56 am | Comment

well, Bellevue, I’m sure JR can stand up for himself, but I have to say I haven’t noticed a pattern of anti-Americanism in his posts.

April 6, 2005 @ 10:14 am | Comment


Thank you for defending me. To set the record straight (again). I think “evil”is a strong word, and one shouldn’t describe people as evil easily. However, I think Mao was evil, one of the worst tyrant in Chinese history. I don’t know if any other Chinese commenters here agree.

I love America, I love the people here. I love to go to the museums, go to the parks. I own a beautiful 6000sf Arts and Crafts Tudor home here with a beautiful zen garden with koi pond. (sorry for bragging) The crocus are blooming, the multi color tulips, freesia and hyacinths are blooming next. Right now I am busy planning about what kind of flowers I want to plant this summer. You all were talking laundry. We have a laundry shoot, I throw clothes in the bathroom upstairs directly into the basement right next to the washing machine. After saying all these, I don’t like the politics in America. If I am ready to give up everthing I own here, I would move to another country away from all these dirty politics.

April 6, 2005 @ 11:25 am | Comment

Lisa: By anti-Americanism I certainly do not mean anti-good-america-way-of-life. No, every corrupted CCP official loves it. But in practice, they are just against everything this country is all about. And they love everything China stands for except air pollution. That’s the pattern I mentioned. As a man who lived under CCP, I am very sensitive to it. And I never failed to sense those CCP simpathizers.

April 7, 2005 @ 6:40 am | Comment

Stupid spammers!

May 2, 2005 @ 12:26 am | Comment

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