Authorities in Shanghai have detained an activist who called on people to write "Down with the [ruling Chinese] Communist Party" in public toilets in the city, in a fresh twist on the Chinese president's call for a "toilet revolution."
Ji Xiaolong had called on rights activists and democracy campaigners to respond to Chinese president Xi Jinping's call for a "toilet revolution" by penning political slogans on the walls that could be seen by thousands.
Ji posted the comments on social media on July 20, calling on people to write "Down with the Communist Party," his friend Chen Jianfang told RFA.
"He has been incommunicado since July 31, with his phone switched off and nobody at his apartment," Chen said.
"It is very likely that this is because he posted messages online calling for a 'toilet revolution,'" he said. "He wrote a few words in a hospital toilet."
"I don't have money to cure my bowel movements, Fatty Xi [Jinping] is chucking money around, changing the constitution to make himself king," Ji's graffiti read, according to Chen. "When will this suffering end? Down with the Communist Party!"
Ji's sister said she received a call from his girlfriend on July 31 saying she feared something had happened to him.
"He has the kind of personality that can't just let certain things go, such as official corruption or whatever," she said. "As a family, we can't let it go either. I can't."
"We don't care much about affairs of state, but we definitely care about any policies affecting ordinary people," she said.
Ji's girlfriend, who is currently on the democratic island of Taiwan, said she has yet to receive any confirmation of his whereabouts, and is still trying to find out where he is.
"One friend says he's in [the southwestern province of] Sichuan, but another is saying he's in Pudong district, Shanghai," she said.
"I don't know what's happening, because everyone is saying something different."
Shanghai-based rights lawyer Dai Peiqing, who attends the same church as Ji, said he hasn't been seen for some time.
"We are both Christians, and we would go to the church every day," Dai said. "One week, he just didn't show up, and friends who went [to his home] looking for him a few days later couldn't find him."
"But I don't know [what happened to him], and, as a lawyer, I can't just speculate on the basis of no evidence," he said.
Public toilets needed
Ji's disappearance comes after authorities in the eastern province of Jiangxi set up a steering group to implement Xi's "toilet revolution" in the province, building and renovating more than a million public facilities over the next three years.
The steering group would work to implement Xi's "toilet revolution agenda" in the spirit of the 19th Party Congress, official media reported earlier this month.
But local residents said the government would be better off focusing on people's anger over official corruption and lack of an independent judicial system.
"I certainly don't support this," a resident of rural Jiangxi surnamed Zeng told RFA in an interview on Aug. 3.
"This sort of toilet revolution idea is superfluous. The government should be trying to do a better job and helping people to live and work in peace," he said.
Lawyer Zhang Tingyuan agreed.
"I think they are putting the cart before the horse," he said.
"Jiangxi province should start with issues like education and medical care that are most directly related to people's lives, so that ordinary people can really feel an improvement in their lives," he said.
Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.