Saturday, March 27, 2010

Grass Mud Horse at Google HQ

Hundreds of Chinese have gathered throughout the week at Google's HQ in Beijing, laying flowers and singing songs following the search giant's decision to redirect users of to it Hong Kong based server. But there has been no mention of the candle-lit vigils or tributes of flowers in the Chinese media. Leaked documents this week revealed that the government had stipulated that all media outlets were to strictly control the reporting of the events surrounding Google's departure and that bulletin boards be monitored. 

The China Digital Times, which is blocked in China managed to obtain a copy of the rules which informed chief editors and managers that Google's official withdrawal from the China market was a "high-impact incident" which had "triggered netizens’ discussions which are not limited to a commercial level." It was thus important, the statement went on to suggest, to "pay strict attention to ... content requirements during this period.”

Amongst the rules laid down was the stipulation that media may "only use Central Government main media content" and not to use content from other sources. In addition the rules said titles may not be changed and that "commentary posts under news items" must be "carefully managed." One of the most striking orders was that all websites should "clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy" [Mashable].

As such few would be aware of the full sequence events taking place in north-west Beijing, where Google's headquarters is based. As well as a constant stream of flowers some of those gathering sand an impromptu version of the "Grass Mud Horse" song [SMH]. The song is born out of an Internet meme as a protest against government censorship. In Chinese, Grass Mud Horse could be written as 草泥马 [Cǎo Ní Mǎ]. But depending upon its tonal pronunciation it could be easily misinterpreted as F*** your mother, �你妈 [Cào Nǐ Mā] [Wikipedia].

There is further profanity in the song and references to a river crab, a symbol of state censorship since the Chinese word for river crab is similar in sound to 'harmonious', a reference to Beijing's claim that Chinese society is harmonious.

Omissions from state media haven't stopped some from posting videos, photographs and audio online, though many items find themselves deleted after only a few hours [Global Voices]. One so-called netizen Gao Ming took to filming events at the search giant's home in Beijing and interviewed some of those who had turned up. "Despite the fact it's a bit chilly there's a lot of people gathered outside the Google office," Gao says on his introduction. 

Showing some of the sweets left on the sign, Gao says, "Don't take them, they're for Google." He shows off other items placed by people; an apple, flowers and a wind turbine toy saying that people would have different reasons for leaving them. 

One girl was asked why she was taking a picture. "Because Google is leaving," she said. Would it affect her life? "I don't think it will have any impact but it's just a pity, " she told Gao. Another girl said that although she often used Baidu, Google often proved better for research. There was also feelings of regret amongst some of those who spoke, some expressing the opinion that censorship was not that bad and that things might improve.

An audio recording posted to one website police can be heard trying to disperse those gathered. "Please leave here, don't gather here," the officers say before a small group of girls and boys launch into song. "There is a herd of Grass Mud Horses, in the wild and beautiful Gobi Desert, they are lively and intelligent, they are fun-loving and nimble, they live freely in the Gobi Desert, they are courageous, tenacious, and overcome the difficult environment. Oh lying down Grass Mud Horse. Oh running wild Grass Mud Horse..." The song ends with the Grass Mud Horse defeating the river crabs, the symbol of Internet censorship. Maybe another day.

Pinyin: zài nǎ huāng máng měilì mǎ lè lēi Gēbì yǒu, yī qún cǎo ní mǎ, tāmen huópo yòu cōngming, tāmen tiáopí yòu língmǐn, tāmen zìyóuzìzài shēnghuó zài nà cǎo ní mǎ Gēbì. tāmen wánqiáng  yǒnggǎn kèfú jiānkǔ huánjìng. Oh wò cáo de cǎo ní mǎ. Oh! kuáng de cǎo ní mǎ. wèile wò cǎo bù bèi chī jí diào dǎbài le héxiè, héxiè cóngcǐ xiāoshī cǎo ní mǎ Gēbì

Chinese: 在那荒茫美丽马勒戈壁, 有一群草泥马, 他们活泼又聪明, 他们调皮又灵敏, 他们自由自在生活在那草泥马戈壁, 他们顽强勇敢克服艰苦环境。噢,卧槽的草泥马!噢,狂槽的草泥马!他们为了卧草不被吃掉 打败了河蟹, 河蟹从此消失草泥马戈壁

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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