Facebook enforces censorship of Tibetan struggle

It emerges that Facebook has deleted a post from Beijing-based Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser showing the self-immolation of Buddhist monk Kalsang Yeshi—the latest in a long string of such martyrs. Seemingly adopting a deliberately inarticulate style to lampoon the limits imposed by censorship, Woeser posted to her Facebook page after the deletion: "This ban, by deleting this, then banned, deleted, and proceed, then, and then, you know." She also compared the Facebook moderation team to a "little secretary"—a reference to Beijing's apparatchiks charged with enforcing censorship. (It isn't explained how Woeser maintains her Facebook page, given that the social network isn't accessible in China. Either she has found a way around the Great Firewall, or she posts via intermediaries abroad, presumably.) Facebook responded with a statement saying that the video was too graphic for its users. The statement claimed that in response to users' objections over graphic content, the company is "working to give people additional control over the content they see." But: "We do not currently have these tools available and as a result we have removed this content." (The Independent, Dec. 29; Inquisitr, Dec. 27)

We are the first ones to oppose Internet atrocity pornography, but Kalsang Yeshi was not just an anonymous dead baby. Yeshi, 37, set himself ablaze in front of a police post on the premises of the monastery at Tawu (Chinese: Daofu) in the Tibetan region of Kham (Sichuan province) on Dec. 23. Chinese police reportedly opened fire on monks trying to stop government troops from taking away the body, which was quickly absconded to a crematorium. Reports said family members of the deceased were then forced to throw the remains into a river at gunpoint.

Yeshi was honored by hundreds of Tibetans and supporters at the Martyrs Pillar of Dharamsala, the Tibetan exile capital in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The event was organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress (which takes a harder line than the Dalai Lama and official exile government at Dharamsala). (Phayul, Dec. 25)

What makes all this particulalrly sinister is that the controversy comes just weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a high-profile visit to Beijing, where he met with China's top official for Internet censorship, Lu Wei—officially, the Minister for Cyberspace Administration. Zuckerberg expressed his eagerness to penetrate the immense Chinese market. His reading material for the trip was, ostentatiously, an English edition of The Governance of China, a collection of speeches by Chinese President Xi Jinping. "I also bought this book for my colleagues," Zuckerberg ingratiatingly gushed to Lu. "I want them to understand socialism with Chinese characteristics." (CNN, Dec. 8)

The Woeser affair pretty clearly indicates that Zuckerberg is testing the waters for his strategy to win Lu's good graces and get Facebook into China: clearly, this will mean imposing Beijing's censorship on the rest of us hapless FB users all across the world, now that Zuckerberg's network has insinuated its way into all of our lives. Utterly dystopian.

On a smaller note, we hope that even Zuckerberg has enough savvy to realize that the "socialism with Chinese characteristics" jive really means "savage capitalism with a thin facade of socialism for appearances' sake." As we have noted, the Dalai Lama is arguably more of a Marxist than Lu Wei, Xi Jinping and the new Chinese elite.

  1. Dalai Lama: “I’m a Marxist”! (Again!)

    The Dalai Lama back in January again proclaimed his Marxism, telling an audience at Calcutta's Presidency University: "In capitalist countries, there is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. In Marxism, there is emphasis on equal distribution. That is very crucial to me." In a shrewd and unsubtle diss of China's rulers, he added: "Many Marxist leaders are now capitalists in their thinking. It depends on their motivation, thinking, wider perspective." (PTI, Jan. 13)