Ai Weiwei says censors removed his microblog

Mon Mar 19, 2012 6:35am EDT
 
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - For nearly two hours on Sunday, dissident artist Ai Weiwei was able to maintain a Twitter-like microblog account, briefly raising hopes the Chinese government had relaxed some of its tight control over online expression.

Ai's first microblog post said: "Testing. Ai Weiwei. March 18, 2012."

Ai's account on Sina, the operator of China's most popular microblogging platform, drew 10,680 followers in that brief period, he told Reuters on Monday, including the jubliant-sounding comment: "The moment has come. The skies have changed in China."

Shortly afterwards, however, the account was inaccessible, apparently deleted by government censors.

Ai is a prominent social critic who was detained without charge last year for 81 days until his conditional release in late June. He said he used his social security number to register the microblog account after discovering that his name was unexpectedly no longer blocked.

"The controls are very strong," Ai told Reuters by telephone. "They (the government) are very insecure, they are not ready for any kind of change."

It was unclear what caused the crack in China's "Great Firewall" as microblog operators such as Sina comply with government orders and monitor content, blocking and removing comments deemed unacceptable or too sensitive.

Repeated calls to Sina went unanswered.   Continued...

 
Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei talks to members of his staff as he sits in his studio in Beijing, in this November 15, 2011 file photo. For nearly two hours on Sunday, dissident artist Ai Weiwei was able to maintain a Twitter-like microblog account, briefly raising hopes the Chinese government had relaxed some of its tight control over online expression. Ai's first microblog post said: "Testing. Ai Weiwei. March 18, 2012." REUTERS/David Gray/Files