(SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS VIDEOJOURNALIST, ANITA LI, SAYING:

"In 2013, China enjoyed yet another year of semi-free speech on Sina Weibo, the nation's most popular microblogging site, despite a crackdown against 'rumor-mongering' in the Chinese blogosphere. And these were some of the hottest topics.

"The standout event of 2013 was almost certainly the sensational trial of disgraced party chief Bo Xilai. China's biggest political trial in decades was unique for its use of social media. Instead of holding the usual secret trial, a court in Jinan fed a stream of updates on its Weibo account, giving a rare glimpse into the complex, private lives of China's top leaders. This is the event most of my friends think was the most memorable on Weibo this year.

"Pictures of officials 'floating in the air' also went viral on Weibo. These comical, photo-shopped images of officials pretending to go about their business sparked jokes and widespread scorn on Weibo. Exactly who they thought they were fooling, I don't know.

"While Weibo is the major platform for discussion about social issues and politics, the atmosphere isn't always serious. An important ongoing theme is 'competition' -- someone comes up with an idea and then people all over China start posting photos on the same subject, trying to outdo each other. So we've had dogs in stockings, people spinning eggs, and hilarious childhood pictures.

"In the latter half of 2013, user activity on Weibo dropped sharply just as the government launched a campaign against the spreading of online rumors, even arresting some bloggers. Maybe people migrating to more private chat apps will be next year's hot Weibo topic.

"This is Anita Li, your China Weibo watcher."

ENDS

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