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In this Aug. 21, 2015 photo, Chinese women work at Rapoo Technology factory in southern Chinese industrial boomtown of Shenzhen. Factories in China are rapidly replacing those workers with automation, a pivot that’s encouraged by rising wages and new official directives aimed at helping the country move away from low-cost manufacturing as the supply of young, pliant workers shrinks.
AP Photo/Vincent Yu
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PEPPER TRIBE

A platform for female factory workers has disappeared from China’s Twitter

By Ziyi Tang & Echo Huang

A platform that wants China’s female factory workers to “scream” about their workplace troubles has been removed from one of China’s most prominent social media platforms.

Jianjiao Buluo, whose name translates to Pepper Tribe, is a Chinese online forum created in 2014 by a group of volunteers, and had over 20,000 followers on Weibo before it was taken down, according to a representative of the group. Their slogan is “we don’t sell pepper, but we make female workers’ scream louder for their rights.” Pepper (jiān jiāo; 尖椒) and screaming (jiān jiào;尖叫) have similar pronunciation in Chinese. The group invites female workers to write about problems they meet with in daily life or at work, and publishes their accounts, often under pseudonyms. Earlier this year, for example, it issued a call to female workers at Foxconn, the world’s largest assembler of iPhones, to write about their #MeToo experiences in fighting against sexual harassment.

Late last week (July 13), the Pepper Tribe published an article (link in Chinese) on its WeChat account to tell its followers that its Weibo account had been permanently blocked. “We don’t want to say goodbye. We don’t want to be ‘disappeared.’ We don’t want silence!” said the article. The account remains active on WeChat, China’s massive messaging platform.

It’s unclear if the censorship was a response to the account’s discussion of #MeToo, which originated in the US last year after revelations of sexual harassment in Hollywood, or to the group’s general feminist leanings. According to Pepper Tribe’s post, Weibo’s customer service told the account that it “violated related regulations,” but didn’t give a clear explanation of why it was banned. Weibo didn’t immediately respond to a query from Quartz.

It wouldn’t be the first time China has cracked down on feminism. Earlier this year, #MeToo-style campus activism at Peking University, one of the top universities in China, led to pressure on students to stop their activities. In 2015, authorities also temporarily held members of one of the country’s most high-profile female rights advocacy groups, the Feminist Five, who had planned protests in multiple cities against sexual harassment on public transport.

Taking a suitable fiery tone, Pepper Tribe has called on followers to ask Weibo to explain why it’s banned: “In this world where everyone follows the authority, we are used to remaining silent when things happen. But we have to speak out… When we get angry, eat some pepper, and let us scream and shout.”