Dissidents in the Chinese provinces of Beijing, Chongqing, Shandong, Hubei, Fujian, and Guangdong have claimed recently that they have been forced close their Twitter accounts. Two of them, Liu Jichun from Chongqing and Pan Xidian from Fujian, were arrested by police because they refused the order.
The order comes on the heels of a cyberspace campaign in which censors shut down the accounts of more than 200,000 people using Chinese social media sites, a move that dissidents say is designed to clamp down on politically and socially sensitive speech.
Twitter, an American social media platform, is blocked in China, along with Facebook and Google, and its Asian server is in Singapore. Many Chinese circumvent the Great Chinese Firewall—the popular term for Chinese internet censorship—to post on Twitter, which is free of the censorship that exists in all Chinese social media platforms.
The Chinese Communist Party’s latest action is called “Clearing Up Twitter.”
Wu Gan, a dissident from southern China’s Fujian Province living in Beijing, was arrested in 2015 when he was participated in a protest in Nanchang, eastern China. He was sentenced prison for eight years in 2017.
Although Wu is in prison and hasn’t posted anything online since 2015, his Twitter account @tufuwugan was closed by Chinese police on November 9, and all his tweets were deleted.
Beside Wu, the Twitter accounts of scholar Gao Yu, Chen Yongmiao, journalist Wen Tao, lawyer Qin Yongpei, internet commentators Gu He and Liu Qiangben, and activist He Depu were shut down by the authorities, the U.S.-based Chinese magazine Beijing Spring reported.
Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily reported that security forces in Beijing, Chongqing, Shandong, Hubei, Fujian, and Guangdong provinces successfully carried out the ani-Twitter campaign. The report predicts that police from other provinces will follow their actions soon.
Liu Jichun is an activist in Chongqing who runs a small restaurant with his wife. He likes to forward political articles on social media, including Twitter. On Sept. 29, Liu was detained because of his sensitive posts. On Nov. 1, the police announced that Liu had been officially arrested.
Later on, Pan Xidian, an activist living in Xiamen, Fujian Province, was arrested because of his Twitter activity. Pan works in the construction business, and has supported other activists since 2010. He been been frequently threatened by police prior to his arrest.
Cai Shenkun, a well-known commentator of Chinese political affairs, tweeted that the anti-Twitter action is one of the means that the CCP uses to threaten Chinese people and silence their opinions.
“In order to survive, I have to give up my writing, and say goodbye to my thousands of readers inside and outside of China,” Cai tweeted on Nov. 11.
Cai has posted more than 40,000 tweets in the past 15 years. He said: “I don’t know when I will be able to make accurate and timely commentaries again. I hope it won’t be too long, and that the dark night will pass quickly.”
While Twitter has been blocked in China since June 2009, this is the first time that the Party has deleted the Twitter accounts belonging to Chinese users.
He Jiangbin, a Chinese economic commentator, tweeted: “If China doesn’t even allow people to comment on financial matters outside the Firewall, how can you expect President Trump to trust you on anything?”
According to He Jiangbin, he is divorced and both his parents are deceased, so he has no family in China and doesn’t worry about his statements having repercussions for anyone other than himself. A friend of He’s friend, speaking anonymously, told The Epoch Times that the Party authorities plan to arrest He in future.
Cao Shanshi, another famous economic commentator, tweeted on Nov. 13 after his accounts in Chinese social media were closed: “If you talk deeply about medical science, the topic will touch upon the law; if you talk deeply about history, the topic will touch upon political issues; if you talk deeply about the economy, the topic will touch upon government policies; if you talk deeply about the arts, the topic will reveal your values; if you talk deeply about the humanities, it will get you entangled in the subjects of ideology and morality. is theer anything you ae free to talk about [in China]?”
Sheng Xue, a well-known freelance writer, told The Epoch Times that the CCP is waging an internet war against the Chinese population to gain greater control over them.
“The CCP is trying to cut off all possible means for you to survive [online],” Sheng said. “It monopolizes your existence, your lifestyle, your breathing, and everything you have, so that it can control you tightly.”
Bao Tong, the secretary of Zhao Ziyang, the late former CCP General Secretary known for his failed efforts at political reform, told The Epoch Times that China’s constitution protects free speech, but that the CCP was violating this principle.
“The government suppresses free speech, which means the government is violating the constitution. If the Party doesn’t allow people to speak, then the Party is violating the constitution. The Party doesn’t follow the constitution and law, which is the same as declaring itself illegitimate.”
On November 12, the CCP’s Cyberspace Affairs Commission (CAC), which policies China’s internet, announced that it had shut down over 9,800 blogging accounts in a 20-day sweep.
Then, WeChat and Weibo said that they had closed more than 200,000 accounts suspected of spreading “improper” information and fake news.
On November 16, the CAC announced again that it had held discussions with 10 major online blogging platforms, including Baidu, Tencent, Sina, Toutiao, Sohu, NetEase, UC, Yidian Zixun, Phoenix, and Zhihu, asking them to implement complete and thorough self-censorship.