Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Illegal Flowers: ‘Feifa Xianhua’

Chinese authorities try to squelch the complaints of Google and its many users, restricting even floral protests of online censorship.


After Google announced it might suspend its Chinese operations, citizens brought flowers to the company

headquarters in Beijing (shown here) and Shanghai.

Photo: Josh Chin, via WSJ

After conforming to the Chinese government’s limitations on Internet use (a.k.a. rules of censorship) for nearly four years, Google made a public turn last Tuesday, signaling that it may close its operations here. The company reportedly changed its tune after detecting that hackers had tried to infiltrate, “violating its network and identifying advocates for human rights and democratic reform in China.”

As Google scuttles to moral high-ground, some commentators say that image management and simple economics spurred the company’s announcement rather than commitment to free speech.

At present, our interest is less in Google’s ethics than in the response of Chinese citizens. Many have brought floral tributes to the company’s headquarters in Beijing and Shanghai to register their support for the global IT company and, presumably, to protest government censorship.

S.L. Shen wrote for UPI, “Since Wednesday morning (Jan. 13), security staff at the Tsinghua Science Park near Zhongguancun – China’s Silicon Valley – in northwest Beijing have been busy chasing away people who went to pay their respects to Google….

“According to the citizen reporters, security guards told the visitors that presenting flowers to Google was illegal without applying for prior approval from the authorities. Otherwise, their offerings were ‘illegal flower tributes.’”

News and images of these floral demonstrations began coursing through the Internet instantly via twitter and other social networking systems. So did a neologism in the human-flower lexicon.

“The newly coined Chinese term ‘feifa xianhua,’ meaning ‘illegal flower tribute,’ quickly spread in online forums. It even appeared as an entry in online encyclopedias like Wiki and Baidu, Google’s top competitor in China. But, unsurprisingly, this term was later ‘unable to be displayed’ on Baidu and microblogs provided by Sina Net in China.”

Matthew Robertson, writing for the Epoch Times, reported “The newly coined Chinese phrase (feifa xianhua) now garners 151,000 hits in Google (144,000 on”...and that was 6 days ago.

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Posted by Julie on 01/20 at 01:15 PM
Culture & SocietyPoliticsSecular CustomsPermalink