BEIJING — Several influential Chinese bloggers, activists and a popular cartoonist have had their online-microblogging accounts shut down in recent days, belying the hopes of many in China that the country’s new Communist Party leaders might begin to relax strict controls over the Internet and free expression.
Instead, the latest moves against “weibo,” the wildly popular Twitterlike microblogging sites, appear to suggest that the party’s new leaders, led by General Secretary Xi Jinping, may be more intent on changing the country’s economy than on opening up space in the political sphere.
Among those whose weibo accounts were disabled in December were journalists Shi Feike, an investigative reporter, and Cheng Yizhong, founder and former chief editor of the Southern Metropolis Daily. Also blocked were Sichuan blogger Ran Yunfei, and Xiao Han, an associate professor at the China University of Political Science and Law.
Shi had done in-depth reporting on the corruption and abuse of power in Chongqing that led to the purge and arrest of former Politburo member Bo Xilai. Ran said he was chatting with friends via weibo Dec. 24, when he discovered his messages were no longer going through. Another microblogger who uses satire to tackle sensitive topics is cartoonist Kuang Biao. He also found his weibo account closed Friday.
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The closures come days after the government imposed new regulations requiring weibo users to register with their real names. The government has said the new requirement was aimed at protecting private information from Internet scammers.