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China Steps up Nationwide Crackdown to Silence Twitter Users – the Unmediated Story

Yaxue Cao, December 5, 2018

 

IMG_4660

I printed the tweets that are translated below for my record, for they can be disappeared any time.

 

If you have been with Twitter’s simplified Chinese community long enough, you know it’s nothing new that handles disappear and in some cases the persons behind them go to jail – it’s a freedom tunnel that the Chinese Communist regime is leery of.

But over the last few months, and still ongoing, we keep hearing mainland tweeps reporting that they have been summoned by police who ordered them to delete tweets or accounts altogether. AFP’s Eva Xiao and Human Rights Watch’s Yaqiu Wang reported on the trend early on.  I myself reported one particular instance – the deletion of Wu Gan (吴淦)’s account.

As of today, I collected 42 tweets from users themselves tweeting about what had happened to them. Some are well-known journalists, dissidents and intellectuals. Others are average tweeps who may or may not be anonymous. Some have been on Twitter for several years, others are new to it. In a few cases, tweeps were given administrative detention of 10 or more days; in at least one case, a user in Chongqing has been criminally detained awaiting charges. Some faced the run-in with police with composure, and others with defiance; still others were scared and quit, or made to quit. Together they tell the unmediated story.

The tweets are arranged chronologically. A few are excerpted for brevity. Necessary explanatory information is provided in [brackets and italic].  A link to the original tweet in Chinese is embedded in the last two words of the translation. If the link is broken, it means, in most cases, that the police came back to the tweep pressuring him or her to delete it.

 

9/17/18

康哥‏ @nongkang5

Today I was summoned to my neighborhood police station for retweeting political rumors. I was reprimanded, and made to write a statement of repentance and another statement guaranteeing that I wouldn’t do it again. They deleted my tweets. This handle is going to be abandoned. Goodbye friends. I love you all.

9/19/18

王法展‏ @wangfazhan0

Just moments ago, a policeman from my hometown (Chengshuang Township police station, Dangshan county, Suzhou municipality, Anhui province) called me and said they are going to come to Shanghai to look for me again (they did during June 4th). I guess it’s about my Twitter. Now, since they are monitoring my posts, let me tell the internet police and the domestic security police right here and now: It’s impossible for me not to speak. Speech is my last line说话是我的底线. You can come to arrest me if you want to charge me for my expressions. It’s no use to come to talk to me. Why don’t you save the money and use it on keeping people safe.

9/21/18

李蔚WayLee‏ @azurewaylee

Beijing tweep Quan Shixin (全世欣 @Sarah_chinaBJ) has been administratively detained for 10 days for “attacking leaders of the communist party and the state.” She was released around noon and returned home on September 21.

10/01/18

He depu @HeDepu 

On October 1, 9 am, two guobao police summoned me to the neighborhood police workstation for a talk, which was transcribed and also video recorded. Their key points are: 1). Recently I posted too many original tweets and retweets on Twitter as well as WeChat, and the content is all negative; 2) Who called for the group trip to Tiananmen Square on Sept. 20? 3) They once again issued a warning and criticism.

[He Depu (何德普) is a veteran dissident and served an eight-year sentence during 2003-2011 on charges of inciting subversion.]

 

Twitter purge, 漫画

Update: A cartoonist in Nanjing @blogtd marks his 10th anniversary with this cartoon. He describes his Twitter experience as “like bathing in a hot bath, enjoying momentary peace and freedom.”

 

10/23/18

黎学文‏ @lixuewen7575

A police officer from my hometown called, asking me to delete tweets. He said the higher authorities investigating internet speech found my posts. I was somewhat puzzled because I had hardly said anything. The call was made to my father’s house, so my old father, who is in his 70s, was frightened once again. Feeling so bad about it, I called home to comfort him.

[Li Xuewen is a Hubei-based dissident writer. He was detained for taking part in the seaside commemoration of Liu Xiaobo in Guangdong in 2017. ] 

10/27/18

 文涛‏ @wentommy

On the afternoon of October 27, three police officers from the neighborhood police station made a surprise visit. The guests and the host quickly exchanged views about Twitter. The police asked me to “delete account” and stop using Twitter. I said that is unacceptable, but I voluntarily promised to self-censor what I say in order to reduce the waste of police resources and avoid upsetting loved ones so frequently. After communicating for an hour, the meeting ended in an awkward but still friendly atmosphere. For the record.

[Wen Tao (文涛) is a journalist who was disappeared for 83 days and subjected to torture in 2011 for his association with artist Ai Weiwei.]

10/29/18

舒廖志‏ @cctvWeb 

Per appointment, I met with Shenzhen guobao this afternoon, and the subject was not to badmouth the Party and state leaders. We also exchanged views on international and domestic affairs. This must be a nationwide operation. Now, my question is: what move is this preparing for?

[This is one of the earliest Chinese Twitter users – since May 2009.]

10/31/18

王亚军北京‏ @wyjaaa

October 21, 2018, lunar calendar Sept. 13, was my birthday. It was unforgettable! Goodbye, Twitter.

[Wang Yajun describes himself as a “renowned joke teller, independent commentator, Taobao store owner, and internet Big V verified by CAC.” He’s been an active presence in Beijing’s intellectual circles for years. He was detained in Keshan county, Heilongjiang province, from Oct. 20 to Oct. 30 for “provoking disturbances. A couple of days after he posted this tweet on Oct. 31, his account was deleted. ]

11/2/18

王法展‏ @wangfazhan0

Twitter purge_五哥放羊逮捕通知书.jpg

Liu Jichun (刘继春, @wugefy1) is formally arrested this morning after being detained for 30 days. Lao Liu ran a small, 40 square-meter eatery in Shapingba area in Chongqing. He was the chef and his wife the assistant. A lawyer has met him a couple of times, and found out that the charges against him have to do with him retweeting various news. Request for bail was denied by the public security bureau, and a request for dismissal was denied by the prosecutors. It’s pretty clear that his is speech crime.

11/4/18

活在魔鬼中的难民‏ @real_refugee

How do you speak freely on Twitter from the evil Communist-ruled land without being summoned by the police for ‘drinking tea’?

章立凡‏ @zhanglifan

I drank tea just two days ago.

[Zhan Lifan is an independent historian and commentator in Beijing.]

11/6/18

亓11‏ @273170335

Hometown police called and said I cursed the leaders on Twitter. I only have a few posts and they were not posted on Twitter. I hereby state: I have not cursed them!

11/7/18

野渡‏ @ye_du

For the last year or so, I have posted nearly nothing on Twitter. Lately there have been tweeps I know who were summoned and forced to delete their Twitter, including quite a few of my friends. So I’m compelled to talk again. Throughout history, in China or elsewhere, the tyrants always think the day will not break if they kill all the roosters that crow at the dawn; everything will be fine if they could make people too afraid to speak. No matter how long the night, we will live to see the dawn.

[Ye Du is a dissident and writer living in Guangzhou.]

11/08/18

李詩銘 @zwitterion2018

I was detained, and made to sit through the night in the cold. Goodbye, Twitter, be safe. Maybe I should just be one of those people who think life in China is peace and quiet.

[I spoke to @zwitterion2018. He lives in a central province. “I don’t know how they found me,” he said. “They came all of a sudden. They asked me questions, took me, and detained me for a night. Then they investigated me and found that I had no associations. So they let me go. At the same time they deleted my Twitter feed.” He said they threatened him that if he tweets again he’d be put in jail. They also explained that they were local police carrying out an order from the national security, and they themselves don’t want to detain him. “It was my first time,” he said, “I’m very afraid.” I asked why he was still on Twitter, he said the worst that could happen to him is jail.]  

Robin‏ @Ruby16674510

This was end-of-the-world maniac: I received a call from guobao who demanded that I pledge not to get on Twitter anymore. How is it possible for me not to get on Twitter? They may as well kill me.

[This is a new tweep joined in May, 2018. In another tweet, he said that, to avoid being harassed by the “Zhao family’s dogs”, he took out his sim card and uses only Wifi to surf internet.]

被中国大陆公安勒令注销推特‏ @wongzheng2017

Officer Zhou, of Donghu police station in Chaoyang District, Beijing, do you call yourself the ‘people’s police’ when you prohibit people from speaking out about their thoughts, their grievances, their call for justice so that you can serve the Party you belong to and its leaders with all your heart and mind? When you shut people up, how are you different from the Nazis during 1937 – 1945?

11/9/18

佛州倪妮‏ @ni1hannah

Lately Chinese tweeps have encountered a widespread crackdown. No wonder they went to my former employer to look for me in early September. Thank goodness I have left.

[This tweep seems to be living in Florida now.]

11/10/18

五哥‏ @realwuge

Guobao had an appointment with me this evening. I was forced to pledge that I would not post any political expressions on any online platform anymore. The fact is I haven’t for the past year or so, but still there have been so many eyes staring at me. Huh, we all know it anyway. So I’ll just leave it now.

沈良庆 @sliangq 

Friend said to me privately that the whole country is campaigning to extinguish Twitter. Guobao twice asked me to delete all my tweets. I promised I won’t retweet anymore and deleted retweets of the last two days. Guobao said I ought to pay attention to my own safety. I said, “Unless you physically cut off the internet or put me in jail, or I’m going to follow the teachings of Deng Xiaoping. That is, the horse will run as usual, the dance will go on, and the one-country- two-systems will be upheld.”

[Shen Liangqing is a former prosecutor and dissident living in Hefei, Anhui.]

11/11/18

蔡慎坤‏ @cskun1989

Twitter purge_蔡慎坤

I have written more than 4,000 commentaries of current affairs over the past 15 years using my real identity. But now, to live on, I have to give up writing and thus bid goodbye to hundreds of thousands of readers in China and beyond. I don’t know when I will be writing the most timely and accurate commentaries again. I hope it won’t be too long, won’t be too long; I hope the night will pass soon.

欧彪峰‏ @oubiaofeng

This is my chat with tweep @419041838 in a WeChat group. We have known each other for a long time.

@419041838: “They deleted all my tweets. Several thousands of them. While deleting, they also videotaped the process. They had talked to me twice about it, and almost took me to jail.”

@oubiaofeng: Why?

@419041838: Deleting all was not enough; they took it to the municipal government for their superiors to check in person.

@oubiaofeng: When? What were the reasons they gave?

@419041838: You guys still don’t get it: using Twitter is very dangerous, more dangerous than street demonstrations.

@419041838: Not me; they did the deletion. They took it away for a night. A few days ago. Several people came from higher level government.

欧彪峰‏ @oubiaofeng

Sun Desheng (孙德胜 @sds8964 )’s tweets were all deleted. The Party-state have never relaxed control of online expression, but recently it has become even more pronounced. Weibo was once a bustling platform but it’s no more. Deletion of post or account has become a commonplace on WeChat. Lately a lot of tweeps have been summoned by police. Some announced quitting Twitter, others were forced to delete their tweets, and still others went silent. There are more than a few who have been detained for tweeting!

[Sun Desheng is an activist who was jailed for 2.5 years from 2013 to 2016.]

11/15/18

Twitter purge, 潘细佃

Freeman‏ @xmyhm

According to the latest news, Xiamen tweep Pan Xidian (潘细佃 @congweiyonghu) has been given 15 days of detention for refusing to delete his account. He’s in Houxi Detention Center, and his account has been deleted.

11/18/18

贺江兵 @hejiangbing01

Around noon, I drank four liang (两) liquor. In the evening I drank again. When I got to six liang (两), I heard knocking on the door. It was cold, so I opened it promptly. What should come would come – three police officers from Shuangjing police station, Beijing Chaoyang District, came for a talk. Officer Gao alone asked questions; another videotaped the entire visit, and the third one stood aside. I said I hadn’t attacked the Party and state leaders since March last year, nor had I defaced the image of the country. I forgot to say that I hadn’t even registered a Twitter account March last year. They didn’t beat me, nor threaten me. I was much relieved. After they left, I finished drinking the remained two liang (两). Now I can sleep in peace. [Edited for clarity. Links are here and here]

That was a fright. Next time I will remember to video record them and also ask to see and photograph their police ID and search warrant. (What about governing the country according to the law that you have been touting?)

[He Jiangbing is a Beijing-based economist who came to Twitter in July 2017 and has been commenting on the Chinese economy since then.]

 

The storm has come indeed. I was asked to delete a total 802 tweets.

[Ye Du told Deutsche Welle that, “Guobao showed me a form with 802 tweets of his that have been put together by internet police. They were categorized into ‘promoting western democracy,’ ‘concerning June 4th,’ ‘inciting social movement,’ and etc. Very detailed. They demanded that I delete these tweets. Ye Du said that he was not the only person who was asked to delete tweets.]

11/19/18

心悦白云‏ @Xybaiyun2018

Ms. Wu Huaiyun from Huoshan County, Anhui Province was given 10 days of administrative detention on Nov. 1. The Public Security Bureau’s written decision on the punishment said, “Since May 2018, Wu Huaiyun used her mobile phone and computer to publish statements defaming our Party and major national leaders on the overseas social platform ‘Twitter’ via her account, @xybaiyun2018. The remarks are serious.” The following is Wu Haiyun’s own account of the event, which she published on Twitter after her release.

Twitter purge, 吴怀云

On October 31, 2018, the Ministry of Public Security and the Anhui Provincial Public Security Department issued an order, and twenty or thirty domestic security police officers (guobao) from Liu’an city came to my home and duped me into handing over my mobile phone. Then several of them forcibly put handcuffs on me and took me away; they also beat me in the police car. Then I was taken to the Liu’an detention facility, where I was detained for 10 days. The police also searched my home, took my computer’s hard drive, pried open my suitcase, and even the mattress on the bed was turned upside down. I hereby request help from international human rights organizations and caring people!

They also found the password for my Twitter account on my computer hard drive, and deleted all the content from my Twitter. After I was detained, they only notified my family by phone, no written notice of detention was given. My family members asked the police for the detention notice, but they refused to provide it. I obtained this written punishment decision by insistence. If they’re reasonable and lawful, then why were they unwilling to give a written detention notice and written punishment decision?  And detain me without trial? I never mentioned the names of national leaders on Twitter, how could I have defamed anyone?  If I disappear again, it’s them–– it’s what they do.

I said that my Twitter content was basically all retweets, and that I just had a few original tweets, which did not involve the content they claimed. They said that reposting is also illegal, especially when retweeting Guo Wengui’s posts–– that was even more unlawful. I asked them, doesn’t the law stipulate that false information must be retweeted at least 500 times before the security punishment regulations apply? Not one of my retweets reached the “500 times” threshold. They actually said that mine were different.

During the interrogations, they assumed I used Twitter on my computer. The written punishment decision also stated that I used Twitter on my computer. When I said that I used Twitter on my mobile phone only, and not on the computer (my computer could not scale the Great Firewall), they all seemed a little surprised! This shows that they found me (on Twitter) by monitoring my mobile phone; the whole thing was a fucking trick!

劉強本‏ @liuqiangben

A few days ago, I received a threatening text message from someone claiming to be the police, demanding that I delete my Twitter account.

王译‏ @wangyi09  

The day before yesterday [on Nov. 17], both Chairman Hua @wxhch64 and I were summoned for a “chat” by authorities in Wuxi and Henan for our use of Twitter. I think this big Twitter cleanup is nationwide, not specifically targeting us, so I didn’t say anything[“Chairman Hua” is Wang Yi’s husband.]

烟台张忠顺‏ @zhangzhongshun

Recently, there’s less and less information on Twitter, mainland Twitter users have either left Twitter, or they’ve been silenced. I was also required to delete more than 500 tweets, and now I dare not post any new tweets. We don’t know the scale, and at every turn the police want to meet; we still have to work, no?

梁太平‏ @liangtaiping123

A few days ago, the domestic security and Internet police came and asked me to delete the relevant posts from Twitter, saying that I couldn’t target national leaders. They were really proactive about this; the Internet police held a screenshot and had me delete tweets from the designated date.

都市放牛娃—邵重国‏ @chongguoshao

Recently I caused a lot of trouble for my friends and family because of my use of Twitter; therefore, I probably will not be on Twitter again for a long time. To my friends who have consistently shown me their concern and care, here I can only offer my apologies. Goodbye, friends.

欧彪峰‏ @oubiaofeng

Lately a number of tweeps have been visited by police who demanded them to delete tweets or not post or retweet anymore. In Hunan, I know there are tweeps in Zhuzhou, Changsha, Shaoyang and other cities who have been summoned by police. Most of them kept quiet afterwards.

二哥‏ @brother_second

I thought only Big Vs were qualified to be summoned for interrogation, but finally it was my turn. I thought this would just be a little intimidation before [Guo Wengui] ‘s press conference and that would be all, because last night the police summoned me but then I was able to return home after only one hour, which didn’t interfere in my watching the live broadcast of Guo’s live broadcast. However, I just now received a phone call from a police officer in the district, who said that the higher ups were not satisfied with our discussion yesterday and that the bureau would send people to have another talk with me. They were somewhat polite, and we agreed to meet at 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon. It won’t interfere with drinking, so it’s OK.

 [Later, reply to self] Just came back, it was nothing. It had nothing to do with Mr. Guo. It involved political commentary. The domestic security officers’ attitude was good. During the interrogation, there was a moment when we clashed, but we circled back.  They had a stack of printed and bound tweets, and the evidence was undeniable.  I wrote a letter of guarantee that I would delete sensitive posts on my own. Done. It’s time to feed the stray cats…

王冰‏ @tom2009cn

The domestic security police stopped by today, mainly because of what I said on Twitter.  What is certain is that Twitter is no longer a place where you can freely express your thoughts. I don’t know what other communication tools are available abroad to replace Twitter? Which are more private and safer? It has been several years since [human rights lawyer] Pu Zhiqiang was convicted for his Tweets. Twitter has never been a safe harbor for speech, and we are now in an era of total repression.

11/22/18

[Tweep @asn_213 gave a friend the following account in DM, and the later published it.]

砂器Protected Tweets @asn_213

Twitter purge, 砂器I’m back. Yesterday it was the Guobao who summoned me via neighborhood police. They printed all the stuff from 5-6 years ago regarding the same-city meal gatherings [part of the New Citizens Movement], and they also printed all of my tweets and retweets. They said these were evidence of my criminal activities. At 10 pm, their political officer interrogated me again, giving me a notice for 15-day administrative detention. It describes me as defaming the national leaders and attacking the current political system on Twitter. They asked me to sign it. I wrote my dissent on it: I have never used my Twitter handle to defame anyone; expressing views on events and people is a citizen’s most basic freedom of speech, and it’s ridiculous that this is even happening in the 21st century. Then I signed it. …… He talked a lot more, finally he tried to use my daughter as a leverage. He said, “Look, at our age, who is going to do what we like to do that make our own daughters suffer. Now I’m going to give you a way out. As long as you stop tweeting or retweeting and delete your Twitter account, we will withdraw this penalty.” I said okay. So he let me go home. I might not be able to keep this account anymore.

11/27/18

Yaxue Cao @YaxueCao

I just found out that the Twitter account of 陈年老酒 @old_wine has been deleted. He was taken away by police on November 7, and it probably had to do with Twitter. I don’t know how many more tweeps have simply disappeared without a peep. We don’t even notice when @old_wine, a sage on Twitter, took leave.

覃永沛律师‏ @l8EcGICDJBhTMUh

This month I have been coerced to delete about 1,250 tweets. The darkest moment has come before the dawn breaks. No need to say more.

11/28/18

真回安然 ☪‏ @ismaelan

In Shandong, Jinan, Hui poet An Ran (安然) was taken to Dongguan police station by five policemen (two of which were Guobao) on November 27, 2018. He was interrogated for his Twitter expressions. He was ordered to delete his Twitter account, but he refused to do so, stating that his Twitter feed is personal property and it is sacred. (Read his tweets here and here.)  

He also posted Page 2 of the three pages of interrogation transcript that concerns the part about his Twitter:

Twitter purge_真回安然笔录Q: How do you get on Twitter?

A: It’s my privacy; I don’t want to reveal.
Q: Do you often post on Twitter?
A: Almost everyday.
Q: What do you post there?
A: A lot of different things – my own takes on current affairs, photo and video sharing, and etc.
Q: Have you posted lately on Twitter?
A: There are a lot. I can’t remember each one of them.
Q: In what language have you been posting/
A:  English.
Q: You posted that “Religion and traditional culture have been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), then the morality disintegrated. Now the Chinese Communist Party began to strike down on religion again.” You also posted that “China’s suppression of Hui Muslims is worsening.” Correct?
A: I posted these this year (can’t remember the exact time) in English.
Q: Why were you posting these?
A: I saw in the news that a new Mosque in Weizhou Township, Tongxin County, Ningxia was ordered to be demolished. It was a grand Mosque built by local believers who had raised 100 million yuan. The government ordered its demolition because it said the dome did not meet the Sinicization requirement. The Mosque was saved only because local people protested in large scale.
Q: What’s the purpose and motivation of posting these two tweets?
A: I wanted to stop the local government from demolish the Mosque, because it was built with believers’ contributions, and it’s such a new, magnificent Mosque…..

11/29/18

Inty‏ @IntyPython

Today my parents in Xinjiang called, and fearfully they asked me to shut up in the U. S. “If you talk anymore,” they said, “the higher-ups will make sure that you will never be able to speak to your parents again.” CCP bastards, come to get me, leave my parents alone! Stop threatening my family! I hate to shut up, but they have turned my loved ones into hostages. For their safety, I decide not to get publicly involved in politics anymore for the time being.

12/1/18

The Shenzhen-based dissident and businessman 陈年老酒 @old_wine, whose name is Xu Lequn (许乐群), posted an account of his encournter with police on another platform on December 1:

Twitter purge, 老酒.jpg

At 10 am, Nov. 7, I was taken from home by policemen in Shenzhen to a police station where they photographed me, took my finger prints, and tested my urine. From 3-4 pm, they interrogated me about my expressions about Xinjiang on Twitter, and they demanded that I delete my Twitter account. I was released at 10 am, Nov. 8, after sitting on a metal bench for the night.

At 5 pm, Nov. 10, I was again taken from home to the police station. At 6:30 pm I was interrogated. They chastised me for still using Twitter the past few days. I again was made to sit on the metal bench for a night. At 9:30 am, they released me saying they’d gotten the wrong person.

On Nov. 26, they called and said their surveillance found that my Twitter account was still alive, that my name is still on the list they’d received from the higher-ups, and that I must get rid of my account immediately. I didn’t know how to delete my account; so I deactivated it.

[Note: His account appears to be active though there have been no new tweets since Nov. 7.]

Twitter purge,老酒2

12/3/18

黎建君‏ @jianjunli1974

This morning I was summoned to the neighborhood police station. I was asked to delete two retweets, one of which is about Guo Wengui. I refused to write a repentance statement.

 

 

Yaxue Cao edits this website. Follow her on  Twitter @YaxueCao and China Change @ChinaChange_org

 


Related:

Deletion of Wu Gan’s Twitter Posts Reflects the Urgent Need to Protect Chinese Human Rights Activists’ ‘Data Ownership’, November 11, 2018.

#LoveTwitter, a Special Place Like No Other for Mainland Chinese Netizens, March 24, 2016.

Chinese Twitter Users Unsettled at Appointment of New Managing Director, April 17, 2016.

Young Chinese Twitter User Arrested For Proposing Method To Spread Truth About June 4th Massacre, June 9, 2014.

A Month Or So In The House Of Twitter, Yaxue Cao, January 23, 2012.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. […] December 5 release of 42 testimonies collected by China Change, a Chinese human rights advocacy site, details the ordeals of hundreds of Twitter users who have […]

  2. […] December 5 release of 42 testimonies collected by China Change, a Chinese human rights advocacy site, details the ordeals of hundreds of Twitter users who have […]

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