If Facebook is causing problems for Indian authorities to arrest users, their Chinese counterparts are worked up over Twitter; and worked up enough to detain a blogger for circulating a joke online about the just-concluded 18th National Congress of Communist Party of China (CPC).
More than 400 Chinese net users have now signed an online petition demanding the release of Zhai Xiaojun who was picked up in Beijing on November 7 after he wrote on Twitter that the next installment in the movie franchise “Final Destination” – where the protagonists die in graphically shot accidents – would be about the Great Hall of the People collapsing on the delegates who had come to attend the Congress.
Twitter is officially blocked in China. Net users get around censorship by using proxy servers that help users in accessing blocked websites.
But for Zhai violating an official ban would be the least of his worries.
A Beijing police officer, who would only give his surname, Sun, told Associated Press on Wednesday that Zhai was being investigated for “spreading terrorist information.”
Translated from Chinese, Zhai’s Tweet, according to Shanghaiist website, read roughly like this:
“The Great Hall of the People collapses all of a sudden. All 2,000 plus people in the meeting died instantly there except for 7 of them. But the seven died one after another in mystery. Is it a game of God, or the wrath of Death? How did the mysterious number 18 unlock the gate of Hell? Premieres globally on November the 8th (that’s when the Party Congress began). Bring you the most shocking scene!”
The authorities didn’t find the allusion funny. Zhai was picked up on November 7 and is detained at an undisclosed location.
Zhai’s case bears a strong resemblance with the case of Paul Chambers. Chambers was arrested in the UK in 2010 and convicted after making a joke threat to blow up an airport after weather caused flights to be cancelled. His conviction was eventually overturned on appeal.
Zhai’s online friends have said that the arrest was absurd and the Tweet was a joke.
“Most people can see this is just a spoof, a joke…” the online petition in Chinese said.
Till Wednesday evening, the authorities clearly hadn't got it.