Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, which has sources within Zhongnanhai, has apparently flown too close to the sun. It got scorched on Wednesday, with Sina, Tencent, NetEase, and Sohu all deleting the paper’s microblog accounts. Reasons remain basically unknown.
In a statement released to the Global Times, the Asahi Shimbun said that all four of its microblogging accounts in China were shut down this week in what it described as an “abnormal situation.”
“It would be really regrettable if the accounts had been closed intentionally despite the large number of followers… we strongly request the operators reopen the accounts as soon as they can,” it said.
Users of Sina Weibo said the newspaper’s account disappeared on Wednesday after having gathered around 1.3 million followers.
Among the scoops the paper has gotten was a report that Xi Jinping was displeased with the propaganda department’s handling of the Southern Weekly fiasco. The story was a surprise in and of itself, which we noted at the time: how was a Japanese paper able to get a high-level source to talk about China’s president? But that happened months ago, and doesn’t appear connected to the recent censorship.
SCMP has this to add:
A former social media editor for Asahi, who uses the pseudonym Wangzuo Zhongyou, wrote in a microblog post that the accounts were taken down because of “instructions from above”.
“Give me back Asahi-kun!” many, among the thousands who commented on the deletions, wrote on Sina Weibo. Some posted icons of candles to commemorate its disappearance.
The Asahi Shimbun has become one of the most popular media outlets on Chinese social media by outsmarting censors with clever wordplays, earning the honorific title Asahi-kun, or Master Asahi, among Chinese netizens.
Tea Leaf Nation, as always, has a good sampling of netizen responses. One user wrote:
Asahi Shimbun’s Chinese portal got harmonized? I really think our Party is too narrow-minded. If some content is not appropriate, you can harmonize it, but why harmonize the whole account? Also, Asahi is quite pro-China, and has quite some history with China (its banner uses a Tang-dynasty calligrapher’s work). If this kind of foreign media cannot be tolerated in China, doesn’t that give people an opportunity to criticize our country for being too closed off?
Here’s the paper’s Chinese site.