Blocking FB account shows freedom of speech has limits

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-1-6 0:38:01

Liao Yiwu, an exiled Chinese writer, said he received notifications from Facebook that it had temporarily blocked him from posting updates to his page because he posted photos of an artist friend staging a nude protest for jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo. Facebook cited its policy against nudity and said this move had nothing to do with politics or commercial interests. Liao said, "I didn't knuckle under the Communist Party, and I won't knuckle under Facebook."

Liao, 56, is one of the most active Chinese dissidents abroad. Because of his personal experiences in the 1989 Tiananmen incident, Western opinions have shown favor to him. It surprised many that Facebook suspended Liao's account. Many people believe such blocks only happen in China and intellectuals keen on politics can post whatever they want in the West. After all, the photos posted by Liao are not simply about nudity, but politics.

Facebook's actions are decisive. Many, including Liao, believe it is another move by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to cater to Beijing so as to enter the Chinese market. Facebook refuted such views.

There are clearer facts behind it all. First, it is not the case that freedom of speech on Western websites has no boundaries. These websites stick to their principles firmly. Second, Liao doesn't only have conflicts with the Chinese government. Western opinion mechanisms cannot bear his behavior either.

Few dissidents abroad can integrate into local communities. Most experienced the process of being admired at the beginning but became isolated or even forgotten in the end. They were not unified, and complained that local forces didn't offer enough support. They were politically paranoid, which was also reflected in their characters and behavior.

Although China differs with Western countries in its systems and is still learning how to properly deal with the behavior of dissidents, from another perspective, it shows that these dissidents do not play a constructive role in real life, no matter if they are in China or abroad. They are more likely to have conflicts with society.

It is worth having more discussions over how to deal with dissidents within China's current system. Their values can hardly change, but they can change their attitude toward China's laws.

Authorities should stick to the red line in the law. Dissidents may feel constrained and give up their illusions. The setbacks they suffer overseas may offer some lessons for those within the country.

Posted in: Observer

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