China’s Consensus Net, a website for open intellectual discussion, has suddenly shut down

Not there.
Not there.
Image: Reuters/stringer
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A website popular among Chinese intellectuals suddenly became inaccessible on Saturday (Oct. 1), the National Day of China.

Consensus Net (共识网) is a digital platform launched in 2009 which publishes commentaries and analysis on a wide range of topics, including economic, culture, and the arts, from both left- and right-leaning scholars. The site said its readers “include but are not limited to intellectual elites, political leaders, and people from any sector who care about the future of the country and the nation.”

The site’s motto is “to reach a consensus in an era of great transformation.” Cached records on Google provide plenty of example of topics that may have upset the Chinese Communist Party, like this essay (link in Chinese) which praises US democracy as self-improving or this (link in Chinese) which gives a rational analysis of independence movements in China. But it also published analysis that praised the government’s policies, including this (link in Chinese) on the “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

The suspension of Consensus Net comes shortly after a major management reshuffle in the Beijing-based liberal magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu (炎黄春秋) in July, and amid a widespread crackdown on free speech on the internet, and activists. Consensus Net was one of the very few outspoken media that remained intact.

Zhou Zhixing, founder and CEO of the site, told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post that the site was not shut down by the government, and “there is no order to stop the operation of the website.” However, he said he is unclear about when the site is going to reopen. Zhou was previously the CEO of Phoenix, a state-backed media outlet.

Currently, the homepage of Consensus Net shows a notice saying that it is under suspension for “program upgrades.” The last post (link in Chinese, registration required) from the official Weibo account of the site came the day before its closure, and said it “will be taking a rest on National Day … for a few days.”