Twitter has been blocked in China since the lead up to last year's 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Nonetheless, the AFP estimates that up to 150,000 Chinese have Twitter accounts with as many as 100,000 of them "physically living" in the mainland.
The Dalai Lama joined Twitter last February and now has well over 300,000 followers. Friday's "chat" with the Tibetan monk will be his response to about 250 questions submitted by more than 1,000 Chinese Web users living on the mainland. According to the AFP, these answers will not only be available to these users through the main Twitter website, but also through third-party websites and applications via Twitter's API. His answers will be broadcast on the Twitter account of Chinese writer Wang Lixiong.
ReadWriteWeb founder and editor Richard MacManus discussed issues of censorship in China, specifically relating to Twitter, with Chinese activist and blogger Ai Weiwei and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey last March. Based on that discussion, it was clear thatTwitter is a useful tool for the Chinese populous in conducting political and philosophical discussions, despite being banned.
As Ai Weiwei noted during the discussion, many Chinese look to Dorsey "as some kind of God" because the microblog lets them communicate and express themselves without worrying about censorship. Although there are numerous Twitter clones in China, the Chinese government cannot only block access to these sites, it can also shut them down. Twitter, on the other hand, is hosted outside of China and cannot be shut down by the Chinese government.