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Sarcastic tweeter jailed for mocking Communist Party

Petition launched to fight terror charge against still-missing Zhai Xiaobing

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A petition has been launched calling for the release of Zhai Xiaobing, a Chinese blogger who mocked the recent Communist Party Congress in an irreverent tweet and was promptly arrested on terrorism charges.

Zhai, a 36-year-old financial worker from Beijing, made the mistake of belittling the Party at its most politically sensitive time – just prior to the once-in-a-decade leadership handover during the 18th Congress.

He likened the event to the latest installment of the Final Destination films, with the following 4 November tweet (tr Epoch Times):

Final Destination 6 will be in cinemas on November 6. The Great Hall of the People suddenly collapses, and only seven of the over 2000 people holding a meeting inside survive—but afterwards, they each die, one by one. Is it the game of God, or the fury of the Grim Reaper? How did the mysterious number 18 unlock the gate of hell? The earthshaking world premier opens on November 8!

Former hack Zhai, who posts under the Twitter name @stariver is thought to have been cuffed three days later and has not been seen since.

Rights activist Wen Yunchao started a petition calling for Zhai’s release at the weekend and at the time of writing it has accrued over 300 signatures.

While China’s home grown microblogs such as Sina are heavily self-regulated and monitored closely for any illegal content, it’s more unusual to hear of a Twitter user suffering at the hands of China’s Public Security Bureau (PSB) – partly because it is technically blocked in the country and so not many use it.

One notable exception is the case of activist Cheng Jianping, known as Wang Yi, who was sentenced to a year in a labour camp for “re-education” after a sarcastic tweet mocking anti-Japan protests at the time.

At the time, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo issued the following tweet:

Chinese Government, year-long detentions for sending a sarcastic tweet are neither the way forward nor the future of your great people.

It’s unclear how the authorities tracked @stariver back to his home, although it's fairly certain that internet companies would have to divulge any relevant information if approached by the PSB. ®

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