WIRED.com, 15 March 2012
The timeline on Sina Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like service, is filled with pithy comments about “Beijing Fashion Week,” chronicling the comings and goings and sartorial choices of the elite.
But the commenters aren’t fashionistas, and they aren’t talking about supermodels or design stars. They are referring, in not-so-secret code, to Communist Party officials.
“Beijing Fashion Week” is a thinly veiled, sarcastic commentary on the Communist Party’s annual summit, now under way in the nation’s capital. And many of the assembled are making it easy to be ridiculed by showing up in luxury garb — a far cry from the staid image they aspire to project.
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And all this may change in the face of a new, more stringent policy designed to clamp down on free expression where other methods have been less successful. In a move to exert greater control on citizen speech online, the government is requiring that Sina Weibo and China’s other microblogs register the real names and identification cards of users in several cities. Those who do not register this week in many major cities like Beijing will not be allowed to share or forward posts; after a period of testing, the policy will go into effect nationwide.