Chinese Activist Freed

Sichuan-based Chen Yunfei refused food in detention and sparked an online outcry.

Chen Yunfei 305.jpg Chen Yunfei arrives home with an apparent injury to his face.

HONG KONG—A Sichuan-based rights activist and online writer has been released from detention following his seizure by police and an online campaign by netizens to have him released.

Chengdu-based Chen Yunfei was taken from his home in the early hours of Thursday by local police and held at an unknown location for 64 hours, during which he went on hunger strike.

"They brought me back ... just before midnight [Saturday]," Chen said.

"I was pretty dazed and confused because I had been on hunger strike ... for 54 hours."

Chen, who said he was still feeling weak after his ordeal, said he had been offered no explanation for his detention.

"I don't really know what the reason was behind it. I found out only when I was released that [top security chief] Zhou Yongkang had come on a visit to Sichuan."

Netizens organized a campaign to have Chen released after his disappearance, bombarding the Sichuan authorities with enquiries about his whereabouts and carrying yellow ribbon logos on their profile pages on microblogging services such as Twitter.

Some online supporters of Chen's even traveled to Chengdu to protest outside government offices, demanding his release, and to visit his elderly mother.

An officer who answered the phone at the local Qingliu police station in Chengdu declined to comment on Chen's detention.

"I don't know about this," the officer said.

"If you want to pursue legal enquiries, you should come to the police station in person ... I can't explain this to you."

Further calls to the same number went unanswered.

Netizens vowed to continue to campaign against Chen's detention, visiting local police stations to register a complaint and calling for an investigation.

Mo Zhixu, a prominent Beijing-based blogger, said the campaign began with a general show of concern for Chen's whereabouts among netizens.

"Then it built into support for concrete action," said Mo, who was among the protesters who traveled to Chengdu in a bid to support Chen.

"We are planning to report this case, and to press the local police department to stop detaining people illegally, and to start implementing the law strictly," Mo said.

"They shouldn't cynically break the law and try to make illegal detention look like something prettier."

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Former businessman Chen Yunfei was placed under house arrest in 2007 after he put an advertisement commemorating the June 4, 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in his city's state-run newspaper, the Chengdu Evening News.

He later resigned his membership of the ruling Communist Party's Youth League in protest.

He is a prominent figure in online conversations about civil rights on microblogging platforms such as Twitter.

China's 390 million netizens spend more time online than netizens in any other country with the exception of France and South Korea, and are more likely to contribute to blogs, forums, chat rooms, and other social media such as photo- and video-sharing sites, recent surveys show.

Last August, Fujian-based blogger Peter Guo Baofeng, known as the micro-blogger "amoiist," was freed by the authorities after a postcard campaign organized by netizens bombarded them with calls for his release.

Guo became the focus of the impromptu postcard campaign after he announced his detention with the words "I have been arrested by Mawei police, SOS" via Twitter on July 15.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated from the Chinese and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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