Kaifu Lee, former head of Google China and founder of Beijing-based startup incubator Innovation Works, said on Twitter yesterday (h/t Sinocism) that he has been banned from posting on Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo for three days.
Lee is one of the most followed people on Sina Weibo, with more than 30 million fans (his Twitter account has a much more modest 997,530 followers). While he did not disclose why he has been kicked off the microblogging platforms or who blocked him, some observers believe it is linked to his remarks about Jike, the search engine of People’s Daily Online. Lee has criticised the company for spending too much money and possibly laying off up to 100 staffers (rumors the company refuted). Despite his smaller audience on Twitter, Lee has been busy tweeting his opinions, including one about how the Communist Party must become more open to criticism.
This is not the first time Lee has run into trouble for expressing his opinions on social media. At the beginning of January, he strongly hinted on his Sina Weibo account that he had been “invited to tea,” Internet slang for being temporarily detained for questioning by China’s state security officers.
Lee’s Weibo ban comes amidst several high-profile moves by the Chinese government to tighten press and Internet censorship. Last month, there was an uproar after officials forced newspaper Southern Weekly (also known as Southern Weekend), to run an opinion piece glorifying the Chinese Community Party. Around the same time, influential online magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu was closed after it ran an article calling on Chinese leaders to guarantee constitutional rights such as freedom of speech and assembly. Furthermore, there are concerns that real-name legislation passed in December will limit online discourse by forcing users of sites such as Sina Weibo to register with their legal names.