Net watchdog closes tycoon’s social media accounts

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-29 0:58:01

Shutdowns meant to maintain nation’s interests, rule of law: analyst

A screenshot of the image of real estate mogul Ren Zhiqiang, an influential but controversial blogger on Chinese social media. Authorities ordered the shutdown of his Sina and Tencent Weibo accounts for "constantly publishing illegal information." Photo: CFP

China's Internet watchdog announced Sunday that it has shut down the blog accounts of a Chinese property mogul and Communist Party of China member, following his "constant publications of illegal information that had created a vicious impact."

Ren Zhiqiang, who had more than 37 million followers on his Sina Weibo account, stirred his latest controversy after openly criticizing President Xi Jinping's emphasis on Party leadership in Party-run media.

Jiang Jun, spokesperson of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), said Sunday in a statement that the CAC has closed Ren's Sina and Tencent Weibo accounts, stressing that "the Internet is not a lawless land and nobody can spread illegal information online."

Jiang said that based on netizens' reports, Ren has been posting illegal messages on his Weibo accounts, which have caused a "vicious impact."

"Both Internet information service providers and Net users should enhance their awareness of self-discipline and be conscious of the bottom line … Online celebrities and well-known Weibo bloggers, or Big Vs, should utilize their influence correctly, observe Chinese laws, shoulder social responsibility and spread positive energy," said Jiang of CAC on Sunday.

The statement said that the CAC will tighten its management over online information and will prevent any closed accounts from re-registering under a new name.

Loose cannon

Ren, who stepped down as head of the Hua Yuan Property company in 2014, is one of the most influential figures on Chinese social media.

Chinese netizens call him the "cannon" for his outspokenness, such as saying poor young migrant workers who cannot afford an apartment in cities should return to the countryside.

He launched his latest tirade on February 19, writing on Weibo that the people will be forgotten when all the media follow the Party and do not represent the people's interests, after President Xi toured major State media outlets and underscored the Party's leadership over media run by the Party.

State media harshly criticized his comments for violating Party rules and principles and for "betraying" his vows to the Party.

They also suggested that members like Ren should be expelled from the Party., a news portal affiliated with the Beijing municipal Party committee, published two editorials on February 22, accusing Ren of distorting Xi's speech to steal the spotlight.

There are people who applauded the shutdown of Ren's Weibo accounts. But some are asking whether he should be banned just for "talking too harshly."

He Hui, head of the Public Relations and Public Opinion Institute of the Communication University of China, said shutting down his Weibo accounts is a move to maintain the country's interests in accordance with laws.

"As an influential online celebrity and a Party member, many of Ren's comments on the real estate market and political issues violated the central government's policies and have had a negative impact on society," He told the Global Times Sunday.

Publicity strategy

Before the latest controversy, Ren was also involved in another major online battle.

In September 2015, Ren clashed with the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC) on social media, claiming that it is "ridiculous" to ask CYLC members to be "communist successors" before communism has been achieved.

Ren also attacked CCTV in 2014, calling the State broadcaster "the dumbest pig on Earth," after a CCTV report claimed that China's largest residential real estate developer Vanke failed to pay the 4.4 billion-yuan land value increment tax.

He Hui added that tightening up the Internet was a response to the reform of the  publicity strategy, adding that many online celebrities or big Vs do not realize that they have to observe rules in cyberspace, and that there are limits to their views online.

The CAC announced Friday that it had shut down 580 social media accounts which "misled the public" or "violated regulations," including the accounts of several Internet celebrities.

Some Internet celebrities ignored their social responsibility and abused their influence to publish information that violates the Constitution and damages the national interest, the CAC said, adding that they also allegedly created and circulated rumors and disturbed social order.

Newspaper headline: Net watchdog closes tycoon’s accounts on social media

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