China’s authorities appear concerned with the ideas of the country’s most famous modern writer, Lu Xun. So they leaped over the Great Firewall to silence a bot tweeting passages from Lu’s works.
The account operator of a bot called @luxunbot25 said he’s been asked to have a conversation with Shenzhen’s internet police. The account, which has 126,000 followers, won’t be tweeting anymore, according to a Tweet today (July 24). It’s unclear where the operator is based, or what has prompted the policing. Quartz couldn’t immediately contact the operator.
The incident represents a step-up of enforcement by the authorities, who late last year began interfering with Twitter accounts posting message deemed politically sensitive. Police have detained or summoned at least a dozen Twitter users criticizing China’s government as of 2018, and in some cases, police hacked their Twitter accounts. But targeting words from Lu is another new level of policing. Lu is well-known for his criticism of China’s feudal and imperial practices in the early 20th century. And his essays have been one of the most important facets of China’s literature studied throughout compulsory education.
Lu’s most famous works including A Madman’s Diary, which tells the story of a man who believes everyone around him wants to eat his blood and flesh, and The True Story of Ah Q, which depicted a man trying to win respects from others by becoming a revolutionary. The man was sentenced to death for a crime he never committed. Both stories are parables of people refusing to change and adapt in a new age, and instead stick to an imperial society.
The Twitter account tweeted passages from Lu’s essays delivering similar ideas. “There are walls in China everywhere, but they are invisible, like ‘ghost walls,’ so you will run into almost any moment. The only victor is the one who can beat the wall without feeling the pain,” read one popular tweet from last month. Lu wrote this in an essay in 1925 calling young people to learn and adapt to the new era.
Another one reads, “Silence, slience! If you don’t speak up to break the silence, you die with it.” Lu wrote this in an article memorizing a female student who died in 1926 protesting a treaty that essentially let eight countries invade China.
Earlier last year, an account on Chinese microblogging site Weibo of a similar handle “luxunbot” was suspended in October—it has recently begun posting again with a new handle.