Li Shufen is a resident of Longkou city, in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, who recently posted to the Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo an account of a massive blast that rocked the Fu Er Chemical Factory in her hometown last Thursday. An employee who answered the phone at the factory denied the reports, while officials who answered the phone at the municipal government, local neighborhood committee offices, and city government propaganda department said they "didn't know" about the blast.
Here is Li's tweet, sent at the request of workers at the factory:
On March 19, there was an explosion at the Fu Er Chemical Factory in Longkou city, Shandong. Five people died and 13 were injured, and yet all news about this has been prevented from reaching the outside world. Human life is beyond value! Can't the Longkou municipal government tell the truth about this enormous accident and investigate the causes to prevent hidden dangers in the future?
Li later spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service about the response to her attempts to blow the whistle on the blast:
My friends who work there called me up and told me that their tweet about the blast had already been deleted by the local authorities, that it wouldn't appear online.
I said I would try to make it work, and then I sent it. There are extremely tight controls on information here in Longkou.
This morning, three people from the Fu Er Chemical Factory came over here and threatened me. They came over here, and asked me if I had any demands to make of them, or whether I had made as much as 10 cents for sending the tweet.
They said I should remember that they are a big company before I set myself up in opposition to them, if I wanted to find fault with them.
They asked if I had nothing better to do, and asked to see my ID. I asked them who they were, and they didn't tell me.
They also asked me what my motivation was. I told them it was to tell the truth on a matter that concerns the health and safety of ordinary citizens. I said people should take responsibility to protect others by telling the truth.
There were three of them. They came in two cars with no license plates.
[At least] five people died and 13 people were injured, and things could be even worse than that. Ultimately, we don't know for sure. Initially they said four had died and three were unaccounted for. Now they say five died.
All the people who work there have been warned not to say a word about what happened.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.