China Restricting Political Websites Amid Scandal

BEIJING (AP) — China is ordering pro-Maoist websites to delete sensitive content after a once high-flying government official who promoted Mao Zedong-era songs and stories was fired, one of the leading sites said Wednesday.

Chinese youths use computers at an Internet cafe in Beijing in this file photo. Chinese authorities are ordering pro-Maoist websites to delete sensitive content. (AP Photo/Greg Baker, File)

An administrator at the Utopia site said regulators ordered the removal of all articles about the city of Chongqing, whose former Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai, strongly pushed the “Red Culture” campaign until his removal from office last week.

Bo was ousted amid a scandal involving his police chief, although he is believed to have antagonized some in Beijing with a controversial crackdown on organized crime and penchant for self-promotion.

The Utopia administrator, who refused to give his name, said the site had also been knocked offline in recent days, either because of heavy traffic or deliberate attacks. He said the order to remove content about Chongqing extended to similar sites, including the popular Maoflag.

A modified version of Utopia was running Wednesday, while individual articles on Maoflag could not be opened.

Such sites argue against privatization of the economy and other Western-style reforms, and have sometimes been critical of China’s current leadership.

They also promote the achievements of Mao, who led a bloody two decade-long revolution that ended in the establishment of communist China in 1949 and held power until his death in 1976. His policies plunged the nation into years of famine and led to the deaths of tens of millions.

Bo was hailed by the pro-Maoist, or ultra-leftist, sites for venerating Chairman Mao’s legacy, despite the Red Culture campaign being portrayed mainly as a way of promoting patriotism rather than the revival of Mao’s dogmatic communist politics.

The restrictions appear to be part of wider censorship aimed at stifling discussion of Bo’s downfall, China’s highest-level political sacking in years. It has sent the Chinese rumor mill into overdrive, characterized by unverified and apparently false reports of a power struggle among Bo’s supporters and opponents.

Terms including Bo Xilai and Chongqing were banned from China’s wildly popular Weibo microblogging service.

In addition, edgy political commentator Sima Nan said one of his upcoming university lectures was canceled and another moved to a smaller venue, apparently in response to recent critical Weibo postings about the government.

“As a party member and citizen, I haven’t done anything wrong,” Sima said in a telephone interview. “I don’t consider myself to be a leftist or a rightist, but simply one who speaks for the party and the people.”

Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press