According to  new study, the Chinese government is offering reduced prison sentences for inmates who post pro-Beijing comments on social media sites.

Professor Xiao Qiang of the Berkeley’s School of Information and founder of China Digital Times has gone through over 2,600 Communist Party directives that have been sent to the newspaper editors over the past ten years.

China Censorship

These directives highlight China’s vast censorship apparatus and how it is able to herd public opinion towards pro-government sentiment.

It is already known that the authorities pay fifty Chinese cents per post to those who will post positive comments about them, gaining them the name “fifty centers”. The local government propaganda officials also employ staff to post positive comments. But new tactics now go further than that.

“By now there are commercial enterprises that contract for comment work. Even prisons do it; prisoners can earn sentence reductions for producing set numbers of pro-government comments,” NYR’s Perry Link writes.

Link explained Xiao’s findings when he said:

“For stories that are acceptable, but only after proper pruning, the operative phrase is “first censor, then publish.” For sensitive topics on which central media have already said something, the instructions may say “reprint Xinhua but nothing more”. For topics that cannot be avoided because they are already being widely discussed, there are such options as “mention without hyping”, “publish but only under small headlines”, “put only on back pages”, “close the comment boxes”, and “downplay as time passes.”

A recent study has found that less than 15 per cent of active Sina Weibo accounts feature original posts but it appears that the Chinese netizens posting these comments are getting wise to government censorship.

[Image via timesunion]