This is what we were afraid of with the anti-rumor campaign: thin-skinned officials out in the middle of nowhere — specifically, places where it’s difficult for watchdog organizations or institutions (media? ha!) or individuals to keep authorities accountable — cracking down on one’s freedom to express anger, frustration, or any host of other very human emotions that this country would prefer stay bottled up in the repressed chambers of our being.
A 16-year-old student in Gansu province (pictured) has been detained for daring to question a police bureau’s investigation — or lack thereof — into the mysterious death of a Jewel Time International Karaoke TV employee. Via Global Voices:
The man, whose surname was Gao, was found dead in the KTV on September 12. The police claimed that Gao committed suicide, but his family and friends questioned the police’s investigation.
Here’s the post in question, as translated by Global Voices:
It seems it is necessary to protest. What happened to Chinese police? What happened to the society? The police were holding shields and rods. What were they doing? Family members of the victim were detained and those who took photos were also detained. WTF. You don’t want the world to know what had happened? What are you afraid of? I am not afraid of you. I took pictures, arrest me, I dare you. May the dead rest in peace.
The anti-rumor campaign was always dangerous because it gave officials the ability to abuse their power, but now there’s another reason to doubt its efficacy: it gives officials an excuse to not do their work. Thoroughly investigate a suspicious death? Why? It’s not like people on social media will call anyone out for it.
The 16-year-old was arrested on September 17 and sentenced to a seven-day detention. He’s since “confessed” to spreading rumors, but no one comes out of this looking good. Here are some netizen responses, again via Global Voices:
Zhou Nan (@周难的微博): “What evidence did the Gansu police use to prove that the mass incident [on September 14] was related to the junior high school student’s posts?”
Lawyer Duo Muqing: “Some legal experts are ambivalent about the arrest of a junior high school kid in Gansu. Some say even if the kid is wrong, the police should not exercise their power to criminalize him. Instead, this is the arena of education. Such comments have created a lot of confusion and should not come from people with legal background. I want to stress that the boy has done nothing wrong and should not be educated. He should be praised and the police should be educated and punished.”
And the best of the lot:
“Brother Star PK dogs” (@大话星哥pk一群狗): “Bad news: They arrested a junior high school kid; Good news: They are afraid of junior high school kids.”
Yeah, they are, aren’t they? Grown adults in charge of this country are afraid of the power wielded from behind the keyboard belonging to a teenager. Think on this. Then consider whether it’s possible — what makes anyone think it’s possible — to suppress this form of expression.
Chinese Teenager Accused of Spreading Rumors Online Arrested (Global Voices) (Image via)
UPDATE, 3:16 pm: So we’re clear: the teen was detained last Tuesday, charged on Sunday night with a seven-day sentence — retroactive to Tuesday, it seems — and released this morning (via Sina).