The Chinese government has deleted the social media accounts of a celebrity blogger with 37 million followers and vowed to punish him after he criticised President Xi Jinping’s media policies.
In the latest instance of the government silencing its critics, authorities pulled the plug on property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang’s social media accounts after he slammed Xi’s call to the media to align with the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) ideology.
Xi toured offices of some of the most influential state media outlets such as the People’s Daily newspaper during a high-profile visit last week and urged journalists to pledge loyalty to the CPC and protect its authority.
Ren, who had 37 million followers on the Twitter-like Weibo, wrote soon after that the media should represent the interests of the people and not the party.
A member of the CPC himself, Ren strongly criticised Xi’s call for media compliance, saying, “…a media that does not represent the interests of the people will be abandoned by the people”.
He added the media should be in the business of serving those who pay the bills – the taxpayers.
The official reaction to Ren’s comments – who has a history of criticising the government – was sharp and immediate.
The Cyberspace Administration of China ordered the shutting down of Ren’s Weibo accounts for “constant publications of illegal information that had created a vicious impact”.
The watchdog’s spokesperson Jiang Jun was quoted by the state media as saying the decision was made after receiving complaints from netizens. Jiang said “nobody can spread illegal information online”.
Next, the CPC vowed to punish Ren according to intra-party disciplinary rules.
According to the official Xinhua news agency, the CPC’s Xicheng district committee issued a circular saying Ren, “as a CPC member, has been releasing illegal information and making inappropriate comments online, resulting in a vile influence and damage to the party image”.
The report added, “The committee, where Ren’s CPC membership is registered and managed, said it would punish him strictly according to party rules.”
The Cyberspace Administration urged celebrity micro-bloggers and bloggers with huge followings to use their influence correctly, obey the law, accept their social responsibilities and promote “positive energy”.