China warns against April Fools’ Day jokes

The caution adds to growing fears China is planning even tougher online restrictions

The Communist Party is obsessed with clamping down on ‘online rumour mongering’, as it sees it as the primary channel for anti-government dissent.

The Communist Party is obsessed with clamping down on ‘online rumour mongering’, as it sees it as the primary channel for anti-government dissent.

 

An official of the Chinese Communist Party has slammed April Fools’ Day as an ideologically unsound Western conspiracy that does not sit easily with China’s traditional values.

“Today in the West is called ‘April Fools Day’, which doesn’t comply with our traditional culture and socialist core values. We hope that everyone does not trust, make, or transfer rumours,” the official wrote on the Weibo social media account of Xinhua, the official state news agency.

The Communist Party is obsessed with clamping down on “online rumour mongering”, as it sees it as the primary channel for anti-government dissent. China has the world’s largest internet population.

In 2013, the government introduced a rule whereby anyone who tweeted something suspicious or seditious that was retweeted more than 500 times faced prosecution.

Earlier this month, an online post calling for president Xi Jinping to resign was condemned as rumour-mongering and led to the detention of many activists as the police tried to find who wrote it.

The president was fresh from a visit to China’s top three state media outlets, whom he urged to pledge absolute loyalty to the Communist Party.

The Weibo post was retweeted nearly 10,000 times and some of the comments were decidedly tongue-in-cheek.

”This is the best joke I’ve seen this April Fools Day,” wrote one, while another made a veiled criticism of state propaganda media, including broadcaster CCTV: “In the West, it’s only one day a year, but on one TV channel, it’s April Fool’s Day everyday.”

In similar vein, the listings magazine The Beijinger ran a story saying Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, which has been banned in China since 2007, was preparing to take up a Chinese “Green Card” and was planning to buy up half of Beijing’s über-trendy 798 art district.

The spoof had Zuckerberg, who has been trying everything to get Facebook unbanned, even jogging in a smoggy Beijing last month, dismissing fears about pollution as the whines of expats, as he encases himself in an oxygen bubble.

The warning over April Fools’ Day comes as Beijing moves to tighten its grip over the internet, making it even less user-friendly than it is now.

The government is currently drafting rules that will effectively ban web domains not approved by local authorities, including possibly the most widely used .com and .org addresses.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has approached companies and individuals for feedback on regulations proposing that internet domain names offering “domestic access” should only be provided by services supervised by the government.