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BEIJING – China’s coronavirus outbreak has tested the limits of free speech on the country’s heavily censored online and social media, with a brief window of liberalization that opened during January subsequently slammed shut by authorities. The period from Jan 19 to Feb 1, when public concern about the coronavirus exploded just as China was gearing up for the Lunar New Year holiday, saw an uncharacteristic loosening. Online buzz about the outbreak flourished, with netizens largely unfettered in criticizing local authorities – but not central government leaders – over their handling of the crisis. That liberalisation has come to end,…

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