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“Direct Line to Zhongnanhai”- with 26 Caveats

September 13, 2010

On September 8, 2010, an online message board for Internet users to send comments to China’s top leaders, Direct Line to Zhongnanhai (直通中南海), was launched by the People’s Daily, the official media organ of the Communist Party of China. As of September 13, the website has already registered more than 23,000 comments to President Hu Jintao alone, regarding issues such as exorbitant housing prices, corruption, environmental pollution, civil rights abuses, and many other problems that people face every day.

Although the forum is touted as a new platform for the people to communicate their concerns directly and openly to the central government leaders, in fact it is heavily restricted.

There are 26 content prohibitions in language identical to charges used by the Chinese authorities to incriminate writers, human rights activists, and reform advocates who express their views openly. The content prohibitions include endangering state security, leaking state secrets, subverting state power, harming national reputation and interests, disturbing social order, etc. (See below for Human Rights in China’s English translation of the 26 prohibitions.)

“This new forum must be viewed in the context of China’s overall policy of tight Internet control – one based on the belief that the openness of the Internet is a threat to stability and that the Internet is an important tool for unifying thinking and guiding public opinion,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC Executive Director. “The real test of the forum’s effectiveness as a genuine ‘direct line to Zhongnanhai’ would be the actual responses to the messages and how the Chinese authorities will address the root causes of the problems raised in these messages.”

From The Handbook for “Direct Line to Zhongnanhai” Message Board

English Translation by Human Rights in China
Rules for Leaving Messages on the Direct Line to Zhongnanhai Message Board

It is forbidden to post the following content on this message board:

  1. That which counters the fundamental principles determined by the Constitution;
  2. That which endangers state security, discloses state secrets, subverts state power or undermines the unity of the state;
  3. That which harms the state’s honor or interests;
  4. That which incites ethnic hatred or ethnic discrimination or undermines ethnic solidarity;
  5. That which incites illegal gatherings, association, demonstrations, or gathering a crowd to disturb social order;
  6. That which undermines state policy on religion or advocates heretical organizations or feudal superstitions;
  7. That which spreads rumors, disturbs social order or undermines social stability;
  8. That which spreads obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, homicide, terrorism or instigates crime;
  9. That which insults or slanders others, or encroaches on others’ legal rights and interests;
  10. That which organizes or carries out illegal non-government organization activities;
  11. Discriminatory remarks or news including those based on race, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, region, handicaps, and economic status;
  12. Other content forbidden by the law or administrative regulations;
  13. News which has not yet been publicly reported or verified (to publicize events you have personally experienced, please note them down clearly and inform the message board administrator of your contact information);
  14. Documents or messages that may jeopardize a third party’s rights or interests, such as (including but not limited to): virus code, hacking procedures, and software cracks;
  15. Copying or plagiarizing others’ works; when reprinting or citing, please clearly note the source; posting articles that the original writer has forbidden to reprint;
  16. Information lacking in rationality or good faith, unreasonable quibbling, malicious comment spamming to waste board space;
  17. Messages with obviously poor writing, excessive misspellings, or obscure and vacuous content;
  18. Articles with content or forms that affect the normal browsing of other users;
  19. Repetitive messages, test messages, excessively personal chats, and comment spamming;
  20. Information that compromises others’ privacy, deliberately mimics someone’s registered name, or misrepresents itself to be an announcement from the forum administrator;
  21. Other content that undermines the order of the message board or encroaches on the interests of the message board or the online community;
  22. Please do not leave messages that are repetitive or excessive in number, or post information or remarks unrelated to the message board’s main topic;
  23. Please do not post any form of advertisement without obtaining the website’s permission;
  24. Please do not add special symbols to message titles or content;
  25. Please do not add groups of symbols such as the following to messages: ASIIC [the American Standard Code for Information Interchange], text in other character encodings, null Chinese characters, double-width Chinese characters, and keyboard-enabled symbols (symbols produced by pressing the Shift key);
  26. Malicious behavior such as continuously reproducing multiple messages from the same account during a short time period or causing a broad swath of the message board to be assaulted with messages from the same account is forbidden.
Punishments for the following situations
  1. In the case of messages that violate the administrative rules for the message board, the administrator has the right to remove or edit the messages.
  2. In the case of users who violate the administrative rules for the message board, the administrator has the right to erase the message and to handle the situation by warning the user and blocking the user’s posting rights up to the point of canceling the user’s account.
  3. In cases where the message board’s administrative rules have been seriously violated, the administrator has the right to block the user’s IP address.

For more information on China’s Internet policy, see: