Chinese tweeter under arrest

It’s been a weird week for IRL consequences to social media actions. First off, that poor young lady in India who made the front page of Reddit after being arrested for… a Facebook post.

Now we move to China, where Zhai Xiaobing, who is being linked to Twitter name @Stariver, was stopped by police just before the new Chinese leaders were confirmed on 15 November.

The BBC reports that, in a tweet, the account compared the Communist Party 18th National Congress to horror film Final Destination. The site reports that the Miyun detention centre confirmed Zhai was there, having been arrested because he wrote a micro-blog post containing false information on the internet:

The tweet, posted on 4 November, read, as translated from Chinese: “#SpoilerTweet# #EnterAtYourPeril# Final Destination 6 to arrive soon.

‘The Great Hall of the People suddenly collapses, only seven of more than 2,000 people inside survive.

‘Later, one-by-one the survivors die in strange ways. Is it the game of God, or the Devil venting his wrath?

‘What does the mysterious number 18 have to do with opening the gate to Hell? A shocking global premiere on 8 November!’

All the numbers mentioned in the tweet make reference to the leadership handover – the 18th Congress began at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on 8 November, and the new leadership consists of seven members, one of whom is the newly appointed Communist Party chief Xi Jinping.

Chinese authorities closely monitor domestic social-media sites, including the Twitter equivalent, micro-blog Sina Weibo.

One analyst said that Mr Zhai’s arrest was significant because it had happened after a post on Twitter – which is officially blocked in China – and not on Weibo.

‘It did surprise me at first – it’s a white-collar guy that seemed to have a misfortune to be arrested and made an example of, as there were many posts on Weibo worse than his,’ Duncan Clark, chairman of consultancy BDA China, told the BBC.

‘But the story is significant on a whole other level because he used Twitter and not Sina.'”

But, as the Guardian reports, backlash to his arrest has been strong–and because he posted on Twitter, the whole world now gets to hear about it.

“After Zhai’s Twitter account fell silent for a few days, a friend of his, Liu Yanping, grew worried and visited his home in Miyun county in Beijing’s north-eastern suburbs. Family members there told her that Miyun county police had taken Zhai away on 7 November and seized his computer, Liu said.

A Miyun county police officer who would only give his surname, Sun, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Zhai was being investigated for ‘spreading terrorist information’. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

Zhai’s supporters say the allegation is absurd and more than 400 people have signed an online petition calling on police to release him – and to have more of a sense of humour.

‘I was very shocked when I realised what happened to him. I’ve consulted a few lawyers and I feel that it’s clear his Twitter joke does not amount to spreading terrorist information,’ Liu said. ‘It’s just preposterous.’

Liu said she and a few other activists have been in touch with Zhai’s family and would help hire a lawyer. She said state security officials had visited Zhai’s wife to warn her to keep a low profile.

Zhai’s wife, when reached by phone, declined to comment on her husband’s situation.”

Gee. We wonder why.

What do you think? Should authorities lighten the hell up already?

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