World

China scrambles to scrub tributes to Nobel laureate

BEIJING: China's censors raced  to scrub social media networks of candles, RIP and other tributes to Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo as they seek to silence discussion about the prominent dissident's death.

The 61-year-old democracy activist died on Thursday from liver cancer while under heavy police guard at a hospital in the north-eastern city of Shenyang - but most Chinese remain clueless about his death or even who he was.

A search for news of his death on Chinese search engine Baidu turned up no results, and China's Twitter-like Weibo blocked the use of his name and initials "LXB".

Even the most obscure homages to Mr Liu on Weibo were removed.

One user who had posted "RIP" was advised it had been deleted "because it violated relevant laws and regulations" - even though the post did not mention the activist by name.

RIP is now among the search terms blocked on Chinese social media networks.

Grieving users who had posted candle emojis on Weibo saw them erased.

When accessing Weibo on a personal computer, the symbol is no longer among the emoticon options.

On the Weibo mobile app, however, the candle was still available but attempts to post it were blocked and triggered a message saying "content is illegal". The Chinese word for "candle" is also barred.

China tightly controls the Internet through a censorship system known as the Great Firewall and closely monitors social media networks for sensitive content.

Social media sites have been cleaned of comments praising the dissident.

"History will remember him whether alive or dead," one user said in a Weibo post that was later deleted.

Another said: "You, who was just freed, made the world different; we, those who are still in prison, salute you."

Even a Chinese language article about German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, the last Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in custody, that had been circulating on the mobile messaging app WeChat can no longer be accessed. - AFP

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