Taipei, Nov. 17 (CNA) The ascension of China's propaganda chief into the country's core leadership has many netizens worried about the prospects of Internet freedom in the future, and experts believe their concerns are warranted.
Liu Yunshan, director of the Department of Propaganda of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, was announced as one of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee Thursday.
During his 10-year tenure as the country's propaganda chief, Liu has been known for his strict and relentless control over print media and the Internet.
One day after Liu's promotion, many Chinese netizens described the move as an "ominous sign" for Internet freedom.
China now has around 538 million netizens, the most of any country in the world, and despite rigorous efforts by the Department of Propaganda to control media and public opinion, they have still been able to express their views on rapidly growing social networks.
During the Communist Party's just-concluded 18th National Congress, however, netizens got the response of "the result of your search will not be displayed according to related laws and policies" when trying to search for news of the meeting.
Even uncritical comments on the congress and Chinese leaders were often deleted on the Internet, and the speed of the Internet slowed down due to tighter control.
Google, a major online portal that withdrew from China and moved to Hong Kong due to disputes with Chinese authorities over censorship in 2010, was blocked by China during the 18th National Congress.
BBC cited Chinese dissident writer Dai Qing as saying that maintaining order on the Internet was a policy announced by Liu during his term and that authorities have spent a lot of money to control the media.
It is not yet clear what duties Liu, ranked fifth in the seven-member leadership coterie, will be asked to take on. But having served as the deputy chief and then the chief of propaganda since 1993, he may well be put in charge of the country's ideology.
(By Chou Hui-ying and Lilian Wu)