Guangzhou Netizen Detained For Posting 'Insulting' Photo of China's President

A Chinese netizen uses Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service of Sina, in a rural village in southwest China's Guizhou province, Dec. 15, 2012.

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong are holding a netizen under criminal detention after he posted remarks critical of President Xi Jinping online, his fiancee said Thursday.

Liang Qinhui, also known by his online nickname "Sharp Knife," was detained by police in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou on Tuesday, Liang's fiancee Fu Yuqin told RFA.

"[The police] said they wanted to have a chat and that it wasn't convenient here at home, so he should go to the police station," Fu said.

"As a good citizen, he went along with it, but when he got there ... they said this was a very serious matter, and that he was likely to be criminally detained."

Liang now faces charges of "discrediting national leaders," "incitement to subvert state power," and "fabricating untrue information," she said.

The charges were based on articles and photos posted online by Liang to chat groups on the popular social media service QQ, she said.

"The police told me that the subversion charge and the charge of discrediting national leaders were linked to Liang's posting of a photo of Xi Jinping, which had text added to it which contained insults," Fu said.

Fu said she couldn't see the logic in the charges.

"I think that he was posting it to make a point about today's society, and about justice," she said. "I didn't think it was that bad."

"He wrote that the beauty of a society lies in equality, and that of a country in freedom, the beauty of a government in its people, and the beauty of the people's lives lies in their rights," Fu said.

"I called up the police and asked them what kind of a country can't even manage freedom of expression."

"He told me that there is freedom of expression, but that it wasn't OK to say those things."

Fu added: "I think it's pretty dangerous when even those ideas aren't allowed."

Tightened controls

Press freedom campaigner Wang Aizhong said the party has continued to tighten controls over online expression that is remotely critical of the regime.

"In 2014, I knew a netizen in Guangzhou who was detained for something he posted online, but he didn't even dare to tell anyone it had happened for fear of reprisals," Wang said.

"I have heard that there have been several people detained for speech crimes in Guangzhou lately."

He said the government appears determined to silence all of its critics.

"They are detaining those who they think are the most serious cases so as to threaten people who have been engaging in online activism for a long time," Wang added.

He cited the case of Hu Yang, a netizen from the eastern province of Zhejiang, who was taken away by state security police on Jan. 21.

"He was taken away in connection with a tweet, which later got re-tweeted by a lot of people, to do with setting up an alliance in Zhejiang," Wang said.

"To this day, nobody knows what happened to him."

Online restrictions

China's Internet regulator has vowed to step up its enforcement of real-name registration rules across all Internet services this year, amid an ongoing war on "illegal content."

The Cyberspace Administration has ramped up its blacklisting campaign targeting websites that don't maintain what China's ruling Communist Party deems to be "lawful Internet information and communication."

China's Internet police have also called on the public to provide "enthusiastic tip-offs" from all sectors of society regarding undesirable content.

China's 649 million Internet users are increasingly chafing against the complex system of blocks, filters and human censorship known collectively as the "Great Firewall," or GFW.

But the government recently defended its blocking of overseas virtual private networks (VPNs), which evade censors, saying the country needs to regulate "unhealthy" online content.

Rights groups say the government has recently stepped up the level of official control over freedom of expression to include criticisms of the government that are merely implied.

On Sept. 1, 2013, China's highest judicial authorities issued a directive criminalizing online "rumor-mongering," in a move widely seen as targeting critical comments and negative news on the country's hugely popular social media sites.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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