China: The reality Facebook can no longer ignore

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group Jack Ma take part in the China Development Forum in Beijing
PHOTO: Reuters

BEIJING - "It's great to be back in Beijing!" -- posted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on March 18 with a photo of himself running through a smoggy Tiananmen Square.

While in the Chinese capital, the social media giant's chief met Liu Yunshan, the fifth highest-ranking official of the Chinese Communist Party. Zuckerberg is said to have praised China's accomplishments in internet development.

Yet the internet was quick to call out Zuckerberg for his comments. One message read: "Zuckerberg curries the favour with the Communist Party too much," while another said, "Does he intend to accept censorship from Beijing?"

Grounds for the comments can be traced back to 2009 when Beijing blocked access to Facebook. The government was concerned at how ethnic unrest in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region might be portrayed on social media.

There are nearly 1.6 billion Facebook users worldwide. In China, the networking tool can only be accessed by bypassing the government firewall.

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