World of Weibo

Not a fan of Deng Yaping

Lee Kai-fu

Lee Kai-fu, one of China’s most popular bloggers, grabbed headlines again. Last week, the former head of Google China, who has over 30 million followers on Sina Weibo, discovered that he was locked out of his personal weibo account. That was after he wrote a scathing criticism on the little-used online search engine run by People’s Daily – which is headed by former table tennis champion Deng Yaping.

Let’s back track a little. Before the Lunar New Year holiday, tech blog Huxiu.com reported that Jike, the search engine launched by People’s Daily, was struggling to compete and will lay off about 500 employees. The reason for its failure? Former table tennis champ Deng may be good at ping pong but she lacked experience in running a search engine, says Huxiu. By the time the blog was forced to take down the report, the news had already circulated through China’s cyberspace.

So in a weibo post, Li questioned why the Party had chosen Deng to lead Jike, and compared the decision to the Democratic Party in the US appointing Michael Phelps to be CEO of Google. He also said the money spent on Jike – rumoured to be Rmb2 billion – could have been better spent building schools. Soon after those comments were published, Lee used Twitter to announce that he’d been booted off Sina and Tencent Weibo for three days.

(To be fair, in addition to being a table tennis icon, Deng holds a PhD in Land Economy from Cambridge University, where she researched the effect of the 2008 Olympics on China’s development. She is also a member of China’s CPPCC, a political advisory body to the Chinese government. For more about Deng see WiC80.)

But Lee is certainly no stranger to controversy – over the past six months, more than 78 of his posts were deleted by censors on Sina Weibo (by the website Tea Leaf Nation’s calculation). Still, this is the first time that he has faced a three day ban. Lee’s recent experience, however, once again highlights the risk of making controversial remarks on sensitive topics online in China….


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