Not content to sit on the sidelines while one of the world’s most powerful men is mocked, China’s censors this week urged the press to stop the spread of “malicious” comments about the Facebook founder’s Beijing visit.
The order, which was leaked to China Digital Times, a U.S.-based site that regularly translates and posts Chinese censorship guidelines, instructs the media to “go a step further” in controlling Mark Zuckerberg-related content, and warns people to “stop hyping the story.”
For those who have not been following his adventures on Facebook: Zuckerberg was in China. He announced his arrival last Thursday on — what else — Facebook, posting a now infamous picture of his not-so-casual, mask-free run through an extremely smoggy Tiananmen Square.
The photograph, which shows a shorts-clad Zuckerberg mid-stride at the site of the 1989 massacre, quickly went viral, garnering comments that ranged from supportive to sarcastic to straight-up disdainful.
Though some Chinese netizens seemed as impressed by the stunt as they are by his Chinese, many wondered aloud how he managed to post the update on a platform that is blocked by China’s Great Firewall. And with the Air Quality Index many times higher than what the World Health Organization deems safe, what of his lungs?
People quickly started posting pictures of Zuckerberg jogging through other Tiananmen tableaus, including the iconic “tank man” photo.
Zuckerberg spent the weekend meeting with Chinese businessmen and Communist Party big shots, including the man overseeing an ongoing crackdown on expression, Liu Yunshan.
Liu, who is China’s propaganda chief, told Zuckerberg he hopes Facebook can share its experiences with Chinese companies to help “Internet development better benefit the people of all countries.”
Zuckerberg praised China’s progress on the Internet and said he hoped to work with China to “create a better world in cyberspace,” according to Xinhua, a Party news service.
The meeting between the man tasked with spreading “Socialist core values” online and the head of a social network he blocks was played up in the party-controlled press. Global Times, a newspaper known for its nationalist bent, said the Facebook chief “set an example.”
Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, meanwhile, made no mention of the meeting.
It remains to be seen whether his efforts to woo Chinese authorities will be successful, but Zuckerberg, for one, seems optimistic.
He closed out his visit by posting photographs of himself strolling along the Great Wall — and sliding down it on a toboggan-like contraption.
“Thanks to everyone I met on this trip,” he wrote. “I'm looking forward to visiting again soon!”