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China: Bloggers bust another really big lie

One of the less glamorous side-effects of censorship, the impact the 17th Communist Party National Congress had on Chinese media made a faked photograph of a rare tiger the top story throughout the Chinese blogsphere for the entire past month. The whole affair ended this weekend when an obscure blogger in Sichuan province found that the tiger in question was not rare at all but actually came from a poster, copies of which were snatched up all across the country and are now on sale for jacked-up prices online [zh].

And yet, the discovery of the poster made this just the latest [zh] scandal this year to bring bloggers recognition as a fact-finding force officials across the country should not fear butcould easily benefit from [zh].

Meanwhile, part one of China's decade-long moon plan the lunar probe Chang'e I was sent up into space late last month, inspiring bloggers to post pictures of water bottle replicas, chart the probe's movements down to the second, and even jump the gun on images Chang'e isn't expected to send back until the recently-revised date of November 26.

On November 11, overseas Chinese websites began posting a rumor [zh] that something had gone wrong with the probe, citing moves taken by top aerospace officials to investigate the possibility Chang'e 1 having been given a scrap oil drum smuggled in from the US, among others. On November 12, an official report was released announcing a 45-minute down in communication with the probe planned for the same day. On Nov. 18, a short communique suddenly appeared announcing the probe to be in perfect condition and working normally; the hundreds of readers who left comments on it generally appeared suspicious.

So in lack of any solid evidence that Chang'e has flown off somewhere, just the precedent from last year in which authorities covered up a similarly high-profile project failure for over a month, do the South China Tiger (华南虎/周老虎) truth-diggers have a new task on hand? Less enthusiastic [zh] and plausible [zh] attempts have been made to suggest that the probe is par for the orbit, but the question [zh] remains open; Cat898 blogger Extraterrestrial Senior Citizen mulls it over in a Nov. 18 post, ‘from the climate at Chang'e 1 to that on the internet‘:


Chinese people have the habit of using science to explain politics, and art to elaborate upon it. The Chang'e-1, having lifted off just following the 17th National Party Congress, was seen by many as a symbol of political grandeur, of having entered the new millennium, and that's why there can't risk being any “turbulence”. But the science makes no room for falsehood, just like eyes can't handle a grain of sand in them.


But from the start, scientists were giving us plenty to look forward to, like when the spacecraft will blast off, when it will shift into orbit, when it will circle the moon, making the once grave matter of scientific enquiry into something an educational activity in national spirit for everyone to follow. But aside from some cues given to the people, this round of scientific exploration isn't of much significance.

科学家们说,嫦娥一号绕月成功之后,在11月18号左右,能传回月球的写真照片, 还有媒体用略带遗憾的口味告诉咱老百姓,照片是黑白的。所以全体民众是伸长了脖子等在11月18号看嫦娥的黑白美人照。可还没有等到18号,也只是在14 号到15号左右,就有消息传出,就咱们家嫦娥出事儿,可能跑了。相信当时许多看到这测消息的网友,与笔者有样,怀疑传播这测消息的人,是别有用心的。但到 11月17日终于国家有关专家们坐不住了,站出来“避谣”,说我们的嫦娥一号一切正常,偶而与地面失去联系,也科学家们掌控之中。并且特别是指出了凯迪网站这传言的源头。但到11月18日时,科学家们终于肯说了点实话。说嫦娥一号要等到本月26日,才能传回嫦娥的美人照。并并且对网友质疑“体检”时间为何会持续十余天之说,朱毅麟专家说:“即使一颗绕地的卫星,设备检测也要花上一个星期,对于绕月的卫星,多花几天时间不足为奇,也是为了卫星更安全、更保险。”

The scientists said that once Chang'e-1 successfully circled the moon, that around the 18th of November, it would be able to send back some images of the moon, and the media told us people in a rather regretful voice that the photos would be black and white. So the whole nation stuck their necks out in anticipation of seeing Chang'e's black and white photos on Nov. 18. But before the 18th had even arrived, on the 14th or 15th or so, news began to surface that our little Chang'e had had an accident, and might have flown off. I believe that most netizens, when they saw this news, as with this blogger, would have doubted its messenger, suspected them of having ulterior motives. But when on Nov. 17 the related state experts couldn't sit still any longer and stood up to stop the rumors, saying that everything was normal with our Chang'e 1, that she was occasionally losing contact with the ground, but was still under scientists’ control. They also made sure to point out that cat898 here was the source of the rumors. But then on Nov. 18, scientists were finally willing to tell some truth, saying that Chang'e 1 won't be able send back any images until Nov. 26. What's more, in response to netizens’ suspicions regarding the reason the “inspection” had lasted for more than ten days, expert Zhu Yilin said: “even if it were an earth orbiter, equipment testing would still take a week; for a moon orbiter, even if it took a month this would not be out of the ordinary. It is to make the satellite as safe and secure as possible, after all.”


This was said after the netizens made their accusations, and after Chang'e 1 wasn't able to send images back by the 18th. This is why what netizens are passing around isn't all completely fabricated. Currently, the Chang'e affair shows us that those suspicious netizens have won a small victory. This victory is a bit like pre-Rectification Yan'an (this writer could be stretching it here). The talking heads don't come by free time easily, and when they manage to it's off to schools to speak or whatever, and still there's always someone questioning them, always resulting in these talking heads, these leaders, never wanting to go back. So then they get corrected.


When the internet take down The Mouthpieces, when bloggers leave spokespeople without anything left to say, this writer begins to worry. But now, after the “Chang'e incident” and the “South China Tiger,” we'll just have to see as we go.

And using politics to interpret reality is Cat898 blogger Wild Mountain Flower with a post from later the same day, ‘Questioning Chang'e 1 is the spine of the country and the people‘:

我是中华人民共和国公民,我有权对政府干的事说三道四(虽然不那么管用)。我是国家的主人翁,主人有权对公仆们指手画脚(在网上)。说嫦娥一号这样那样的问题,正是对国家关心的态度。试问一下,嫦娥上天这么久了,网友们一直不当回事,这才是最可怕的事。国不知有民,民也不知有国呀。当年的清兵和英军打仗,老百姓在一边看热闹。 假若嫦娥真的出问题,我们不关心,不问,“那是他们的事,爱咋地咋地”。麻木不忍,把自己排除在公民之外,不关心国家大事, 试想,这样的国家还有什么希望?


我不反对我国发展空间技术,相反,我极力支持。我只是问一声,什么时间让我看一下照片? 嫦娥真的有事也别瞒着,苏美等国不是失败多次才取行功的吗?何况他们还死了好多人。

取于说真话,取于怀疑,这才是中国的脊梁,民族的脊梁。 那些万岁不离口的奴才们是不会理解的。

I am a citizen of the People's Republic of China, and I have the right to speak my mind on things the government does (although I don't use it much). I am the master of the country, and the masters have the right to wag fingers at and criticize civil servants (on the internet). Talking this problem and that problem with Chang'e 1, is nothing other than showing care for the nation. If I may, Chang'e has been up in the air for quite some time already, and netizens haven't paid it much attention; this is the scariest thing. The state isn't aware of the people, and the people aren't aware of the state. During the time when Qing troops were fighting the British, the common people just stood to the side to watch the excitement. Say something does happen to Chang'e, and we pay no attention, ask no questions—”that's their business, let them do as they like”—numb and apathetic, and place ourselves outside the citizenry, uncaring about major national incidents, just think, would a country like this have any hope?

Thinking back to my youth and the Great Leap Forward, and the confused instructions, did many people object then? Marshall Peng‘s closest superior was Mao Zedong.
No one was allowed to call the government on the things it did; the slightest opposition and you got a label: anti-revolutionary. The days of flunkies cheering are gone.

So. I'm not opposed to our national scientific development; on the contrary, I super-support it. I just want to ask a question: when do we get to see the photos? If Chang'e really is in trouble, don't cover it up; didn't the USSR and USA and others fail multiple times in their tries? Never mind how many of their people died.

To make a habit of speaking the truth, of doubting, this is what will be China's backbone, the backbone of the nation; those flunkies who can't get “long live!” out of their mouths wouldn't understand this.

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