China: A Forbidden City of words

The Chinese authorities have blacklisted certain words on the internet. But you can’t, ultimately, suppress communicationWhat’s the two-digit number that’s banned on most websites in China? It’s “64”, which refers to the Tiananmen Square demonstration and the subsequent crackdown in 1989 (it represents June 4). It sounds like a joke but it’s not. It’s a reality so absurd it becomes laughable, for the authorities expect to maintain harmony by forbidding this number. And “64” is not alone, many words and phrases are forbidden on Chinese websites hosted in China.So what happens if you type in one of those words into a Chinese message-board website hosted in China? Depending on the setting, you may be told by the system “Your message contains something harmful/forbidden/illegal so it has not been accepted. Please go back to re-edit it” or you will see your message posted with the word magically replaced by some star marks. The fact is, every message-board site hosted and registered inside China, has a “forbidden vocabulary” list in its administration system. I’ve seen it three times in different cities. Only a few of them are expletives or racist remarks. The majority are things that the government doesn’t want to see, and that ranges from politics, culture, the economy, finance and art to social news. In one message board I frequent, if I type in “Dalai Lama” in Chinese, I get “****” instead.

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