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Little hope of change

Haiye Cao / act
November 13, 2012

Many netizens in China's blogosphere have expressed their disillusionment with the party leadership, despite intensified censorship. Few people expect much from the 18th Party Congress.

Foto:Lee Jin-man/AP/dapd
Image: AP

Many Chinese netizens have expressed their annoyance about the stepped up security measures ahead of the party congress and during it. They are also angry about the intensified censorship. "What kind of congress is this?" one user wrote on Sino Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter. "There are police everywhere, but who are they supposed to be protecting? It's awful!"

However, there is not much in terms of debate because censorship has been tightened during the party congress. Most searches will bring up official posts only.

Military delegates leave the Great Hall of the People, REUTERS/David Gray
Netizens don't expect much from the congress delegatesImage: Reuters

That's why the Internet community has had to resort to creative measures to circumvent the censors. Instead of using the Chinese characters for "18th Party Congress," for example, they have used similar characters such as the one for the word “Sparta” or Latin script ("18big"). The codes that they use, such as “Seven dwarfs” to designate the seven upcoming new members of the Politburo, only work until the censors catch up.

In the censored forums of the big internet providers, there is only enthusiasm for the party congress. "An important day for our country and people" or “A great master plan for the country and new measures to improve our lives,” are just some of the headlines.

Criticism on Twitter

However, on Twitter, which can only be accessed if you are a technical whiz and thus has a much smaller community than Sina Weibo, there has been a lot of criticism.

"Many more people are recognizing that the whole thing is just a hyped-up show and the party will have to carry on playing its old-fashioned role," the human rights activist Hu Jia tweeted. "As a taxpayer I have a right to demand that the congress be paid for by the party itself and not our taxes," he said.

A man takes a picture next to a paramilitary police officer REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Security has been stepped up for the congressImage: Reuters

Moreover, he pointed out that as a citizen he had the right to say the legal system should not be abused in the name of maintaining security during the party congress just so that people are kept quiet. Hu Jia, who was awarded the European parliament's Sakharov Prize in 2008, is currently under house arrest.

'Justification for no reforms'

There was general disappointment about President Hu Jintao's 90-minute opening speech. His announcement he would fight corruption only impressed a minority of netizens. Others have described it as a "justification for no reforms."

Writer and journalist Gao Yu expressed her surprise that there seemed to be no change at all on the cards. "Whereas activists on the Internet are disappointed, corrupt officials can sleep in peace," she wrote.

"In his speech, Hu repeated several times that reforms have to be pushed forward but at the same time he insists on not swerving from the course at all," another tweet said.

"They all say the same," one Sina Weibo user wrote. "It doesn't make any difference whether one hears it or not."

Despite the critics, many other Chinese Internet users have set their hopes on the party. They expect the new leadership to fight corruption, to assure an equal distribution of income and better conditions when it comes to health, pensions, education and rents.

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