x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

From Shawshank Redemption to blind person, China blocks web searches for activist Chen Guangcheng

Chinese censors block searches of a host of terms related to blind activist Chen Guangcheng, who escaped house arrest and is now under US protection.

BEIJING // Chinese censors blocked web searches of a host of terms related to blind activist Chen Guangcheng, from his name to The Shawshank Redemption, the prison-break film being compared to his case.

Searches for Chen's name and the Chinese terms for "Shawshank", "blind person", "embassy", and Chen's home village of Dongshigu were all blocked on Sina Weibo, China's leading microblogging service.

Also blocked was "UA898", a United Airlines direct flight from Beijing to Washington, apparently after people speculated online about the possibility Chen would gain US asylum.

Other blocked terms included the names of Chen's relatives and the internet nickname of a woman, He Peirong, who reportedly helped him escape.

The searches triggered messages saying the results could not be displayed because of "relevant regulations".

Some web users had used the Chinese characters for "Shawshank" to refer to the case.

The Shawshank Redemption was a 1994 film based on a novella by US author Stephen King, about a convict's escape from an American prison.

The pervasive web censorship system run by China's ruling Communist Party routinely blocks content deemed politically sensitive or embarrassing to the government.

None of China's print or other media have made any mention of the Chen affair.