Gallery: Blocked on Weibo

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 >>(River crab / héxiè) commonly refers to the Chinese mitten crab, an edible crustacean native to China’s eastern coast. It has now spread to waters in America and Europe, where it is considered an invasive pest. The crab is a delicacy in Chinese cuisine.

Why it is blocked: Besides its fondness for overtaking other spe­cies’ habitats, the river crab is guilty of one other major sin: having a similar pronunciation to the Chinese word for harmony, 和谐. Harmony, or the “harmonious society,” was the principle message of Hu Jintao’s time in office. In October 2006, after the Central Committee’s annual plenary session, the committee called for a re­prioritization of social stability over economic growth, with more emphasis on solving the rural-­urban divide, protecting the environ­ment, and addressing possible political reform.

Netizens were more skeptical and mocked the call for a harmonious society. However, because Internet censors caught on and quickly deleted or blocked critical posts containing 和谐, netizens resorted to using “river crab” at first as a sort of code and later as a form of slang and protest. News reports have been “river crabbed” (that is, “harmonized,” a euphemism for censored), and posts discuss how the invasive river crab is wrecking the country. This sort of punning is done on a whole array of words to evade the censors.
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