Sending “sensitive” messages, even reposting or liking anything the government deems “harmful” to its regime, may put you under investigation.
by Li Guang
A netizen from the northern province of Hebei had never expected to be scrutinized by the police. His troubles started in April last year when he read on WeChat about some people, petitioning the government to defend their rights, who were taken into custody instead of having their claims dealt with according to the law. He clicked on the “like” button and reposted the message. Two days later, a police officer came to his home to investigate him for “inciting the masses to make trouble.” The officer threatened to hold him accountable for potential consequences.
“How is this making trouble?” the netizen was stunned. “The government controls every word we say; they can get rid of us easily as if we were ants.”
China’s regime has been maintaining a firm grip on the citizens’ use of the internet and mobile technologies for a long time already, monitoring and controlling the digital media to manipulate public opinion and block any information it deems “unfavorable.” As the authorities extensively censor everything said online, one can get into trouble for one “wrong” word.
A woman from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China has learned this the hard way. In August, she invited some friends to join her on a trip to Hong Kong. In preparation for the vacation, the woman mentioned the word “demonstration” in a voice message on a WeChat profile she had created for the group. She immediately came under the police radar.
“An officer repeatedly asked me what I planned to do in Hong Kong, how many people would travel with me, and why I had sent the message mentioning the word ‘demonstration,’” the woman recalled. “I said I didn’t remember what I had said, and the officer took out his cellphone and replayed my WeChat voice message. Only then did I realize that I said ‘demonstration’ instead of ‘vacation’ by mistake.”
Although she repeatedly explained that it was nothing but a slip-up, the officer investigated her friends as well until he determined that the trip to Hong Kong was merely a vacation. “I will never make a casual remark online in the future!” the woman said.
At the end of last year, the police repeatedly investigated a Three-Self clergy member from a county in the central province of Henan because of a video he made ten years ago about Christians who persevered through disasters because of God’s protection. He later uploaded the video online, and it went viral.
Subsequently, the county’s United Front Work Department held a meeting for people in charge of churches within the jurisdiction to reiterate that the new Regulations on Religious Affairs prohibit any faith-related content from circulating on the internet, including religious audios and videos. Sermons and testimonies, especially those talking about divine miracles, are definite no-nos. So is the content with anything against the CCP or the government. Churches are not allowed to organize online meetings as well.
A local believer told Bitter Winter that the clergy member was later dismissed from his post in the church.