By China Change, published: November 12, 2014
A 31-year-old Chinese IT professional named Xu Dong (许东, @onionhacker) was detained on November 4th by Beijing police for “picking quarrels and creating disturbances,” according to tweeted posted by Chinese activist Wu Gan (吴淦), better known by his online ID “Butcher” (屠夫).
Xu Dong’s friends told Wu Gan that Xu Dong is currently being detained in Beijing First Detention Center, and that the police cited Xu Dong’s expressions of support for the umbrella movement in Hong Kong, but the police also said Xu Dong had committed crimes of developing software to help Chinese Internet users scale the Great Fire Wall of China, the Chinese communist government’s tool to prevent the Chinese people from obtaining free information mainly from outside China. According to Xu Dong’s friends, the Beijing police alleged that Xu Dong has “colluded with hostile forces and there is a mastermind behind his work.”
According to his friends, Xu Dong moved to Beijing last June from Dongguan, Guangdong province. Beijing police also raided his apartment, seizing laptops, cellphones, hard drives and flash drives.
Xu Dong’s Twitter account has mainly been devoted to promoting a software that enables Chinese netizens to defy the Great Fire Wall of China to gain access to Websites blocked by the ever-stringent tool of censorship, such as Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Google, and major newspapers, to name only a few of an ever-growing host of sites and services.
On October 19, Xu Dong tweeted, “Defying the communists’ fire wall is a long and arduous job at Maple Leaf and Banana [his software “brand”]. We might be limited in our resources, but we have a group of passionate progressives around us. Time is precious, and we urgently need gmail boxes to ensure the operation of the software! You can register gmail boxes to help us establish an endless circulation plan. Please send your gmail to email@example.com.”
On November 1, Xu Dong announced the issuance of Maple Leaf and Banana’s cloud download manager V188.8.131.52 capable of push notification and cloud update. It boasts of being the fastest and most stable proxy software for PC with access to YouTube HD and Google.
In mid-October and earlier, he tweeted a few tweets about the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong when Occupy Central occupied pretty much the timelines of China watchers. So our assessment is that, Xu Dong’s detention probably has to do with his energetic promotion of the Maple Leaf and Banana software at a time when the Chinese government, preparing for the APEC meeting, was in an extremely nervous state and rounding up anyone it perceived as a threat, even though Xu Dong’s is by no means the best known similar software.
But such a nervous state has increasingly become an everyday norm now in China, as the arrests have gone beyond dissidents and activists to include NGO workers and public interest advocates. Over the last two years or so, “picking quarrels and creating disturbances” has become the one-size-fits-all charge against anyone China’s communist government perceives as undermining their rule and it is perceiving more and more “threats.”
According to Chinese journalists, the Chinese government propaganda offices recently issued orders prohibiting media coverage of the detention of Xu Dong, Xia Lin (夏霖, a rights lawyer) and He Feihui (贺飞辉, general secretary of Liren Libraries), as well as U. S. president Obama’s call during the APEC meetings for China to open up the Internet.
According to Wu Gan (here and here), one of Xu Dong’s friends, who had reached out to Wu to reveal Xu’s detention, told him that four police officers had come to her company, set up a camera in front of her colleagues in an effort to intimidate her, and interrogated her for several hours. They were very angry that she had publicized Xu Dong’s detention through Wu Gan.
Wu Gan said that the police actions only confirmed Xu Dong’s innocence and the government’s evil behavior under the so-called rule of law.
Some tweeps believe that Xu Dong’s detention signifies a likely expansion of the CCP’s crackdown on people who spread or provide software, channels, information, or third-party clients to defy the GFW.