Protesters in Hong Kong aren’t just in the streets. They’re flooding into social media too, and that’s made the authoritarian Chinese government nervous.
Predictably, the government’s army of Internet censors has been ruthlessly removing social media posts that mention the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. But this wave of censorship is impressive, even for China.
You can get a sense for the sheer magnitude of the censorship campaign in the chart below. This data shows the proportion of censored posts on the enormously popular Chinese social media site Weibo.
Source: Weiboscope, Journalism and Media Studies Centre, University of Hong Kong. Data extracted on Sept. 30, 2014.
The rate of censorship has roughly quadrupled since the Hong Kong protests began.
Why is the Chinese government so worried about these protests?
One reason is probably the dramatic photographs of protesters circulating on Weibo, which reveal the scale and fervor of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Many young people in China today have no clue about the government’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago, in large part due to successful censorship and propaganda by the government.
The images coming out of Hong Kong might kindle broader interest in democracy among Chinese, and inspire even more of them to demand reforms. That prospect terrifies the government.
Check out some of the censored images from Hong Kong below.
Photo source: Weiboscope. Photos extracted on Sept. 30, 2014.