Having followers on WeChat may send you to jail—particularly if you are a Christian.
by Han Xiaosi
On April 25, 2022, Yan Zhihong, a young Christian from Shenzhen, was arrested by the local police for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a crime punished by article 293 of the Chinese Criminal Code with a jail penalty up to five years. In fact, article 293 is a catch-all statute used to arrest and sentence dissidents of all kinds.
Yan Zhihong appears to be a typical representative of Christians belonging to what in China is called the generation of “post-90s” (九零后), i.e., those born after 1989 and the events of Tiananmen square, a “lost generation” where many had no confidence in the Communist Party and converted to Christianity.
The crime of Yan Zhihong is that he has a sizeable following on WeChat and that he posts there Christian content that is not tolerated by the CCP.
However, he has now been arrested as part of a crackdown against those who protest the Zero-COVID Policy, which has become a new CCP dogma. In fact, Yan limited its criticism to translating and posting on WeChat with Chinese subtitles a video by a German citizen who is a resident of Shanghai and criticized, sometimes in a humorous way, the draconian quarantine measures citizens were subject to there.
While criticism of the Zero-COVID policy is common, in the case of Yan Zhihong the combination between the COVID criticism and his Christian activism made him a target of harsher repression.
The incident also proves that the attention of the CCP is focused more and more on WeChat and posting content not approved by the Party there becomes increasingly dangerous.