Citizens’ voicing dissent through social media as well as the Communist Party’s efforts to quell speech it deems a threat to its rule is nothing new in China.
In the late 1970s, at a wall near Tiananmen Square in Beijing—which would become known as the Xidan Democracy Wall or simply Democracy Wall—people would voice their grievances and yearnings for change (See Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China).
It was used like a bulletin board where people posted banners, essays, poems, and other writings on various subjects, including but not limited to issues on economics and politics.
Deng Xiaoping even tolerated it for a while, as he didn’t want to become as rigid as Mao Zedong was and let innovative thinking and economic growth stagnate as it did during the Cultural Revolution (1965-1968). He also believed that people had the right to vent. But as the messages posted on the Wall became more and more anti-Party, especially after Wei Jingshing posted an essay calling for democracy as the Fifth Modernization,* Deng and the Party started clamping down. The postings were moved elsewhere, and people had to pay or get permission from their employer to post something on the wall.