The closure of the Sina Weibo accounts of several public intellectuals, including columnist Wang Xiaoshan, university professor He Bing and former journalist Li Haipeng, sparked a new round of debate about China's freedom of speech among the public.
When Sina Weibo was launched in August 2009, it was hailed as a new channel of expression.
Both mainstream and non-mainstream opinion-makers strive for diversity of opinions in both the web and in real life. Nobody could have imagined how Weibo would change the way people express their opinions.
There are now more than 300 million web users registered on Sina Weibo, China's largest mircoblogging service, according to latest figures published by Sina.
The Chinese public is calling for more freedom of speech, something regulators are in agreement with. The differences lie in the extent and the pace at which such freedom should be granted. The Internet gives almost unlimited freedom of speech, but a suitable way to regulate it has yet to be formed.
Granted, cyberspace, and Weibo especially, has become an important way for the public to be informed of breaking news and receive different opinions. Citizens' participation in public affairs has been greatly enhanced. The scandal of Guo Meimei whose flaunting of wealth exposed astonishing management loopholes in China's Red Cross Society has become a classic example of Weibo's power.
At the same time, however, Weibo is also becoming rife with junk information, and occasionally rumors. Sina Weibo even launched accounts specifically aimed at exposing false and misleading posts. The run on salt among the Chinese public after the devastating earthquake in Japan last March tainted the image of microblogging services.
We are walking toward a society with diversified opinions. During the process, there will be notable progress as well as conflicts. No matter what they are, China's diversity of opinions should be in line with the rhythm of society and fit in with reality.
Greater freedom of speech requires strenuous and cautious efforts in a populous country with limited experience in the field. China will definitely not halt its march toward that goal. Let's not rush into any hasty conclusion based on the closure of a few Weibo accounts.