The online Sina Weibo microblogging account of Murong Xuecun, one of China's most popular writers and one of the country's foremost critics of censorship, has been deleted from the site, suspected to be part of the government's efforts to crack down on online rumors by targeting high-profile users.
Murong's account, which had more than 1.1 million followers, was taken down from the Twitter-link website on May 11, 2013. His writing as well as his microblogging discusses social issues in contemporary China such as corruption and media censorship.
Many speculated the deletion had something to do with the government’s recent plan to squeeze the popular microblogging site's verified users with millions of followers, known as “Big V’s”. The reason behind going after these users is a desire to crack down on online rumors, as the State Internet Information Office announced on May 2, 2013, due to a recent protest in Beijing.
The move has triggered outrage among Murong's followers. Many have changed their account name into “Murong Xuecun second generation” or “Murong Xuecun third generation” to show support. One Murong Xuecun fan club emerged on the same day his Weibo account was deleted, offering updated information about Murong. The fan club wrote [zh]:
Block one Murong Xuecun, and thousands of “Murong Xuecun” will appear. This is the strength of freedom. Murong’s new account is “Pingyuan Dongfangshuo”.
Ex-Google China chief Kai-Fu Lee shared Murong’s old posts with Weibo users from freeWeibo, a blog that keeps track of censored content on Sina Weibo:
His remains are outside of the wall.
Wang Yiqing, a journalist from Hainan Daily, updated [zh] Murong’s status on Weibo：
Murong himself used another Weibo account “Pingyuan Dongfangshuo” without a “V” for verified to express his thanks to his followers:
Weibo user “Qiji Jianshen Yuqian” wrote [zh] about that the deletion of Murong's account was a terrible loss to the site:
Today I was surprised to find Murong Xuecun’s account was deleted. I have read most of his books, and almost never missed his microblog. There are not many writers with both conscience and calmness in this country, even less for those who have some knowledge about the law and are willing to practise. Goodbye, Murong, I will leave microblogging for a while, because this world is still unenlightened. Tonight, please forget me.
Former New York Times research assistant Bao Beibei commented [zh] on the potential greater impact of this move to censor Murong：
Pulitzer wrote that if the country is likened to a ship, reporters are the ship's lookout who offers timely warning before the rapids. Not only reporters, I think commentators and writers who write on social themes can be included in this category. Removing one lookout will not reduce the chance of the ship hitting a reef, but it may reduce the vigilance and ability to respond to the reef for those on board. For @Murong Xuecun
“LiWu-Mingri Hulianwang” expressed [zh] his disappointment with a microblogging site without Murong:
LiWu-明日互联网: @慕容雪村 阵亡。意味着微博上有真知灼见的博主已经全军覆没，微博对于我个人的价值将大幅降低，而指望微博推进社会进步已经越来越式微。
@Murongxuecun was “killed”, which means bloggers with insights have been annihilated. Microblogging has substantially reduced its value to me. The expectation for microblogging as a way to promote social progress has been weakened.