HONG KONG -- Here are some popular people on Sina's Weibo and some of their recent messages.
Kai-Fu Lee is a Taiwanese high-tech investor who lives in Beijing and has more than 50 million followers. He attracted nationwide news media attention last week when he revealed on Weibo that he has lymphatic cancer. On Aug. 23, near the start of the crackdown on the most influential bloggers, or Big V's, Mr. Lee posted this: "Even faced with hardships and obstacles, I am full of confidence in China's social media, because I'm sure that China is now nurturing many friends with a sense of social responsibility, and they will give China a better future!"
Yang Lan, a Chinese television celebrity with more than 34 million followers, usually sends messages about uncontroversial topics, including her interviews and philanthropic work. But recently, she has also criticized both restrictions on Internet expression and online attacks. She wrote on Aug. 23:
"Freedom of expression on the Internet, including voicing, debating and criticizing diverse points of view, is a force for social progress. But Internet rumors and freedom of expression are two different things, and we can all become victims of irrational linguistic violence. Whether it's protecting citizens' freedom of speech or protecting citizens' rights to their reputation and privacy, both should ultimately rest on rule of law."
Pan Shiyi, a property developer based in Beijing with more than 16 million followers, draws attention to the air pollution choking the city, and his messages played a significant role in forcing the government to take firmer action to reduce smog. Recently, he has also voiced misgivings about the government crackdown on Internet opinion. On Aug. 10, he posted this:
"Everyone is passionately discussing whether the Internet should be controlled, cleaned up, guided, to indoctrinate the public…I personally believe that everyone should participate in society online, and the public shouldn't be passively indoctrinated. Rumors should be sanctioned under the law. Forcing the Big V's and Internet celebrities to indoctrinate the public and raise the public's level of morality will not fly."
Ye Haiyan, a businesswoman and feminist advocate with about 75,000 followers, promotes women's rights and urges stronger protection for sex workers. She wrote on Sept. 10:
"Looking at Weibo, there's an attitude of mutual crudeness between the public and the government – I'm rough on you, and you're rough on me – and an atmosphere of healthy communication hasn't formed. Those high up wave their big club back and forth to terrify people to death. The public's problem is that it demands that old and new problems are all tallied up, and gets worked up about small and big things. When will both sides calm down and have normal communication? I think those high up have to first give the weak a sense of security and respect."
Li Houlin, a Chinese jewelry businessman with 5.6 million followers, mixes his musings on society and commerce with criticisms of government policies. On Aug. 21, he criticized the crackdown on Internet rumors:
"These days when the spread of information has the capacity to have a real impact, each person must take responsibility for what he says. We must refuse rumors in the name of free speech, and must also avoid using the rhetoric about rumor to hinder freedom of speech. The most effective way to clean up rumors is not using state power to crack down, but letting the public promptly know the truth."
The property developer Ren Zhiqiang has more than 15 million followers. He is one of the more outspoken voices on Weibo, using it to criticize government economic policy and take digs at rivals. Mr. Ren has also criticized government efforts to restrict comment. On Aug. 10 he wrote:
"If it weren't for Weibo, how much official corruption would be covered up? If it weren't for Weibo, how much rape and seduction by school presidents and principals would be covered up? If it weren't for Weibo, how much murder by city administration officers would be covered up? If it weren't for Weibo, how much of the truth would be covered up?"
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.