Chinese Internet Users Evade Censors by Dubbing Kim Jong-Un ‘Fatty on the Train’

This picture taken on February 22, 2017 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 23 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visiting the People's Theatre to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State Merited Chorus in Pyongyang. / AFP / …
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In a postscript to the latest tale of iron-fisted censorship from authoritarian China, Internet users neatly sidestepped a ban on insulting nicknames for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un by coming up with new insulting nicknames for him.

Chinese censors banned references to the portly Kim, the third ruler of North Korea’s Communist monarchy, as “Fatty the Third” during Kim’s secret visit to Beijing. The objective was evidently not just to prevent Chinese citizens from mocking the North Korean leader, but to suppress speculation about his visit before the Chinese government was prepared to officially confirm it, as they did on Wednesday.

Undaunted, Chinese wags swiftly came up with new nicknames for Kim that evaded the ban, even though some of them look similar when rendered in English. Reuters lists a few, including “The Obese Patient,” “The Fatty on the Train,” “The Visitor from the Northeast,” and “The Sibling Next Door.”

Reuters quotes complaints from some Chinese that their government has been effectively erasing all articles about North Korea from the Internet during Kim’s visit, causing a good deal of confusion and hardship for readers and website proprietors. The online community quickly devised methods of passing news along to each other using verbiage that evaded search-engine blockades.

Another curious response to Kim’s visit was noted by NDTV: superstitious investors snapped up stock in companies whose names were linked to Kim Jong-un in tenuous fashions, on the theory that Kim’s visit was an auspicious omen of good times to come:

The Mandarin character for “Kim” is pronounced “Jin” and means “gold”, and some Chinese companies with Jin in their name soared on Tuesday.

A Chinese firm called Changbai Mountain Tourism Co. Ltd, which is based in northeastern China, also surged by its 10 percent daily limit in Shanghai. Changbai mountain is a peak along the China-North Korea border.

Another firm called Dongguan Golden Sun Abrasives, a company that makes products like sandpaper, also surged by its 10 percent limit. “Golden Sun” is seen by some Chinese as referring to Kim.

Other companies whose names contained at least one character from Kim’s full name also jumped.

In Shenzhen, Kingsignal Technology, which Chinese name contains the “Jin” character, also surged by its daily 10 percent limit.

Japan Times notes that Chinese censorship of Kim news during his visit was somewhat uneven, with sources such as Taiwanese newspapers able to slip a few stories through search engines. Gossip from people in the border city of Dadong was evidently able to circulate freely after Kim’s train passed through en route to Beijing.