City of Brass

amoiist.png I just saw a re-tweet from Rebecca MacKinnon that Chinese blogger Peter Guo has been arrested by authorities in China. Amazingly, it seems he managed to twitter his arrest while in custody, by using his phone while the police were asleep (see screenshot at right).

There seems to be a crackdown on bloggers who wrote about a scandal involving gang rape at a police-sanctioned brothel. PC World has a story with more details already:

The detentions add to a long string of cases in which Chinese police have taken bloggers or other Internet users into custody for writing online about government corruption. The events also show how Chinese Internet users have sometimes used the Web to reveal and trumpet injustices, and how the government has worked to control online opinion when it turns critical of authority.

The five people have all been detained on defamation charges in the weeks since text and video accounts of the scandal spread on popular Chinese Web forums, lawyers for two of the detained people said Thursday.

A sixth person, writing on Twitter from a mobile phone early Thursday, claimed to have been taken away by police in the same municipal district of Fuzhou, Fujian province, where the other detentions occurred.

Articles posted online last month gave a mother’s account of how a gang member called her 25-year-old daughter, Yan Xiaoling, and ordered her to come out to meet. The woman found her daughter dead in the hospital the next day and was told she had been raped by up to eight people before dying, according to the articles.

Police held a press conference the day after the articles appeared online and were widely re-posted. An official denied any violence or rape and said Yan had died of bleeding caused by a failed pregnancy, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The official also denied any police ties to the gangster or to a prostitution-peddling karaoke joint owned by him, both allegations made in the online accounts.

But within days, police began detaining Internet users they seemed to suspect of writing the online accounts. Police have said that the defamation charges stem from the online materials, Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer for one of the detainees, said by phone.

MacKinnon also RTs that the reason for his arrest may have been a video he uploaded regarding the scandal, seemingly an interview with Yan’s mother.

China has managed to render the old adage, “The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it” largely moot, due to filtering and collusion with the very corporations that run the net. But Twitter may be the true incarnation of Internet that will truly let light be shined where autocracies would prefer darkness.

Let’s all say a quiet prayer for Peter and all the other bloggers held in custody. It’s also worth remembering that Iranian blogfather Hossein “Hoder” Derakshan remains in custody in Iran, where bloggers are also routinely arrested, and have died in custody. Free speech is literally a matter of life and death.

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