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Chinese people lift a dark curtain

Censors in China have been busy since Saturday after Taiwan held yet another free and democratic election. Despite a government firewall on the internet designed to control what passes for truth, many Chinese citizens offered rare and favorable commentary about the election. For a brief time, the #TaiwanElection hashtag was No. 11 among trending topics on social media – before being deleted.

One internet user noted that the Chinese Communist Party can hardly criticize the outcome of the election “when you don’t even allow elections at home.” Another netizen wrote, “We would only get such an intense battle when electing our class captain [in high school].”

This brief expression of interest in Taiwan’s democracy is the latest example of a public hungry for transparent and accurate information in a country where even basic statistics about the economy have lately been censored. Another example is the rise of “citizen historians” who have challenged the party’s account of past atrocities and even its claim to rule without opposition. Economy watchers have learned how to use available data, such as of urban pollution and night-light density, to challenge the party’s often dubious claims on national development.

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