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Chinese censors delete academics' post decrying Russian invasion

Scholars calling for peace attacked by ‘50 Cent Party’ trolls before post disappeared

A monitor showing a censorship message at an internet cafe in China.

A monitor showing a censorship message at an internet cafe in China. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A post on Chinese social media platform Weixin jointly signed by five prominent academics denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was almost immediately taken down by China’s censors on Saturday (Feb. 26).

Among the five scholars were Sun Jiang (孫江) of Nanjing University, Wang Lixin (王立新) of Peking University, Xu Guoqi (徐國琦) of the University of Hong Kong, Zhong Weimin (仲偉民) of Tsinghua University, and Chen Yan (陳雁) of Fudan University, per CNA.

The authors criticized Russia for, despite being a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a nuclear power, ruthlessly attacking a weaker “brotherly state.” "We feel the pain of the Ukrainian people,” the professors proclaimed.

They wrote that calls for peace had resonated around the world and that they too want to join the outcry: “We are closely following developments, thinking about the past, concerned about the future, and, amid the uproar from the people, we feel we must make our voice heard.” The piece concluded: "Peace comes from the heart. We stand against unjust wars."

The post appeared at around 6 p.m. on Saturday. It was not long before a large number of state-sponsored internet trolls — members of the so-called "50 Cent Party" — left a string of critical comments, asking why the scholars had not spoken up when the U.S. had invaded other countries.

One of the commenters called the academics “five rats harassing China,” while another claimed they had “violated the country’s position” on the issue. Several netizens said they had reported the scholars to the authorities.

The “anti-Russian content” was deleted within two hours. An accidental leak of censorship instructions for Chinese state media on Tuesday (Feb. 22) showed that any content that is unfavorable to Russia or pro-Western must be censored in China.