Chinese fans of banned parody app find each other offline using secret codes
Comment of the Day

April 13 2018

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese fans of banned parody app find each other offline using secret codes

This article from may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Now that a popular parody and meme app in China called “Neihan Duanzi” has been shut down and its social media account on WeChat got deleted, fans of the app are gathering in solidarity offline in subtle protest.

Drivers are honking at each other in code to indicate that they’re fans, The New York Timesreports. A coded message might be a car honk, followed by a pause, and two more honks.

This week, while in the US Congress was slowly grilling Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in China, regulators brought down swift bans on offending news apps and social media apps. On Monday, China banned several big news apps including Jinri Toutiao, owned by Beijing-based Bytedance Technology. Then, the following day, authorities shut down Neihan Duanzi, a platform for users to share parody skits, citing vulgar content on the platform that “triggered strong resentment from internet users.”

Toutiao’s CEO, Zhang Yiming, issued an apology letter soon after for “publishing a product that collided with core socialist values.” While Toutiao is expected to return online by April 30th, Duanzi has been permanently shut down, according to an April 10th statement from its site. China had previously banned video spoofs and parodies in a March directive, a lot of which appeared on Duanzi.

Eoin Treacy's view

Here is a link to a YouTube video showing the numbers of cars honking out tunes on Chang’an avenue (Beijing’s equivalent of the Champs Elysees leading up to Tiananmen Square) over the last couple of nights.

I have often observed that denizens of capital cities in Europe tend to have an ironic sense of humour that is either self-deprecatory or has a cutting wit. That is certainly true in Dublin, London and Paris although no two cities share the same character. This is equally true in Beijing where the self confidence of being a native of the capital city gives people the courage to poke fun at, well, everything. That’s not a particularly welcome characteristic in the current political environment.

The Communist Party is expending a great deal of capital imposing an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure and has 2 million domestic security personnel. This is a direct effort to curtail the freedom of association but with the barriers to entry to creating social media apps falling all the time that is a difficult prospect.

The reality is that human beings are not worker drones. They do have their individual needs which are often expressed in a sense of humour and irony. It is to be hoped this latest flowering of youthful exuberance does not meet the same fate as the last one.

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