Chinese citizens have figured out a way to use Twitter by circumventing the Great Firewall, the nickname for the sophisticated system that the Chinese regime has built to censor and monitor online traffic in China.
The way to evade the Firewall, which blocks access to certain foreign websites, such as popular social media platforms Twitter and Facebook, and to slow down cross-border internet traffic, is by using a virtual private network (VPN). That can make users appear to be located outside China, and allow connections to the internet that are undetected and hence uncensored.
But recently, many Chinese netizens who circumvented the Firewall to create Twitter accounts have been targeted by Chinese authorities. The people were interrogated, detained, and arrested by local police and were forced to delete their tweets and close their accounts.
Human-rights activist Bu Yongzhu, who lives in Guangdong Province, was interrogated and detained by local police. Bu posted on Twitter on Nov. 1 that on Oct. 24, while under video surveillance, he had to log into his Twitter account and delete some tweets on the spot; the police also confiscated his personal identification card.
That incident involved local police and the Internal Security Bureau, a secret police force tasked with neutralizing individuals that the Chinese Communist Party deems to be political threats, Bu told The Epoch Times. After he posted about the episode on Twitter, Bu said several of his friends commented that they had also been interrogated by authorities.
Bu believes that the Chinese regime is targeting many domestic netizens that have an overseas social-media account.
Many Chinese Twitter accounts were intercepted in the past few days, and many users were required to delete certain posts that the Chinese regime deemed inappropriate or could undermine its authority.
Lawyer Tan Yongpei, director of the Baijuming Law Firm in Guangxi Province, tweeted on Oct. 31, “Since the ‘[political] climate is especially bad,’ I plan to delete 800 tweets that they [the CCP] think are sensitive.” Tan and his law firm have represented adherents of the spiritual practice Falun Gong who have been arrested for their faith, filed corruption allegations against officials, and handled other such “sensitive” cases.
Former investigative journalist Wen Tao (@wentommy) wrote on Twitter that on Oct. 27, three police officers knocked on his door and demanded that he delete his Twitter account and never use the social-media platform again. While Wen said that was unacceptable, he said he had no choice but to comply so his family could avoid being constantly harassed. He was forced to tweet about his “self-censorship.”
Veteran dissident He Depu from Beijing, who had been imprisoned for eight years, said he was interrogated by two police officers from the Internal Security Bureau on Oct. 1. They said the content of his posts on Twitter and WeChat was all “negative.” He was required to delete his Twitter account and was warned about his tweeting on human-rights issues.
Wang Yajun, an independent current-affairs commentator, was detained for 10 days for tweeting. After he was released, Wang tweeted on Oct. 31: “Don’t Twitter!” and attached an image “Certificate of Detention.” Wang was detained on charges of “picking quarrels.”
A netizen commented, “It’s fine that he (Wang) said farewell to Twitter after being detained for 10 days, but he basically deleted all his tweets. He was probably under some kind of pressure. It would be difficult for people who had not experienced it to understand it…”
Other outspoken social-media personalities such as @huadiefei and Liu Jichun from Chongqing City—who went by the moniker “wu ge fang yang”—were detained for 30 days. The latter was slapped with the charge of “picking quarrels” on Nov. 2 and was forced to delete his account.
Former Chinese lawyer Peng Yongfeng told The Epoch Times in an interview that according to the Chinese regime’s own laws, police barging into citizens’ homes and forcing social-media users to delete their posts violates the legal process. In a broad sense, it’s a violation of human rights, Peng said.
Peng added that the internet allows information to spread freely. The CCP is fearful about that, he said, so it intends to control information at all costs.
Epoch Times staff members Luo Ya & Li Xin’an contributed to this report.