河蟹 (English: River crab), is an internet slang created by netizens in Mainland China in reference to Internet censorship. The word river crab sounds similar to the word harmonious (simplified Chinese: 和谐; pinyin: héxié) in Chinese Mandarin. The three wristwatches refer to the Three Represents, where the Mandarin expressions used for “represent” (Chinese: 代表; pinyin: dài biǎo) and “to wear a watch” (simplified Chinese: 戴表; traditional Chinese: 戴錶; pinyin: dài biǎo) are homophones.
Since the Chinese Communist Party announced the goal of constructing a “Harmonious Society” (simplified Chinese: 和谐社会) in 2004 and the government of Mainland China usually cites this as the reason for censorship, Chinese netizens began to use the word “harmonious” as a euphemism for censorship, when the word for censorship was censored. And when the word harmonious began to be censored, Chinese netizens began to use the word “river crab”. Sometimes aquatic product (simplified Chinese: 水产) is used in place of “river crab”. It is also used as a verb, for example, instead of saying something has been censored, one might say “it has been harmonized” (simplified Chinese: 被和谐了; traditional Chinese: 被和諧了) or “it has been river-crabbed” (simplified Chinese: 被河蟹了). In some BBSs, “harmonious” is a censored word, so netizens use “river crab” instead.