Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang have detained prominent blogger Guo Weidong, known by his online nickname “Daxa,” his wife said Friday.
The move comes amid an ongoing crackdown on political activists and petitioners following calls for a fourth day of “Jasmine” protests in major Chinese cities.
Guo was taken from his home late at around 8.00 p.m. on Thursday by more than 10 police officers from nearby Ningbo city, his wife Zhang Dan said.
Police searched the couple’s home and Guo’s office, taking with them Guo’s computer and a DVD documentary about prominent artist and social critic Ai Weiwei and some Hong Kong periodicals.
Zhang said she had received notification at around 3.00 p.m. on Friday that her husband had been formally detained on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power.”
She said she had unsuccessfully tried to hide her husband’s computer when the police came to the couple’s home.
“I told them we didn’t have a computer; that it had got smashed last time we had a fight,” Zhang said. “I should have pretended I had to go to the bathroom and hid it then and there.”
She said she had phoned Zhai Minglei, former reporter for Southern Weekend and founder of Yi Bao, “the One-Man Newspaper,” and he had put the news out via the microblogging service Twitter, where Guo had a strong following.
Police had warned Zhang that things would go badly for her if she personally published the news on Twitter, she said.
Guo sent an update via the microblogging service Twitter on the day of his formal detention following several days of questioning and surveillance by local police, saying that anyone who got detained or held under house arrest must taste “depression … the lack of freedom … and humiliation.”
Zhai said he was surprised at the charges against Guo, because he had stood out among Twitter-based activists as being highly skeptical about recent calls for a Middle-East inspired “Jasmine revolution” in China.
“Most of our friends on Twitter supported the ‘Jasmine revolution,'” Zhai said on Friday. “But Guo questioned it right from the start.”
“He had believed for a while that the government was cooking up a case against him,” Zhai said. “He never took part in the ‘Jasmine’ protests.”
Guo said in an interview last September that he had caught a glimpse of an official screen displaying his name on a dissident watch list after he swiped his second-generation national identity card at a railway station.
Next to the words “stability protection” on the screen was the name of a contact at his local police station together with a cell phone number, presumably belonging to an officer responsible for watching him, said Guo, who frequently posts material on social media that is critical of China’s ruling Communist Party.
China is home to more than 400 million Web users and more than 50 million bloggers, all of whom are frequently subjected to censorship by their Internet service providers.
Guo wrote about his experience on the microblogging service Twitter, which is blocked in China to those unfamiliar with the technology needed to get around government filters, known collectively as the Great Firewall.
Netizens responded at the time by comparing the security measures to measures described in George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 and to the blacklist kept by the Stasi secret police in the former East Germany.
China has recently tightened its controls over political activists under its “stability protection” system in the wake of anonymous calls for protests against corruption and calls for more political accountability made in recent weeks via overseas websites.
So far, the “Jasmine” protests have made international headlines because of stringent security controls and recent beatings of foreign journalists trying to get to the suggested locations, with few people showing up for the Sunday afternoon rallies.
Reported by Wei Ling and Hai Nan for RFA’s Cantonese service, and by Xin Yu for the Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.