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Dissenting Chinese cartoonist has online accounts shut down

Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming poses on the balcony of his apartment before an interview with Reuters in Beijing, 22 October 2013
Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming poses on the balcony of his apartment before an interview with Reuters in Beijing, 22 October 2013

REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is outraged that the Chinese authorities have deprived a cartoonist of his rights, merely for expressing dissent.

Wang Liming, a prominent online cartoonist known as biantai lajiao, or "perverted chilli pepper", posted a cartoon satirising Hong Kong's anti-Occupy Movement on his Weibo microblog account on August 17, 2014. The next day, all of Wang's Mainland online microblog accounts, including Weibo and WeChat, were shut down without explanation. According to Radio Free Asia, Wang's online shopping account at Taobo, a prominent online shopping portal, was also shut down without explanation. On August 18, the Communist Party newspaper The People's Daily and Global Times, a sister publication of The People's Daily, as well as online portals and other media outlets, posted an article labelling Wang a "pro-Japan traitor".

Wang, who is in Japan on business, denied the allegation but said he had cancelled his return flight to China last Thursday, August 21.

"I have lost income since my microblog account was shut down," he told Radio Free Asia. "I think it might be pretty risky to go back home. If I go back, they might use my cartoons as an excuse to detain me," he said. "I'm looking around for opportunities that might enable me to stay here."

In the cartoon, Wang mocked some of the Mainland demonstrators who attended an anti-Occupy Movement rally in Hong Kong on August 17. At the rally, some of demonstrators from the Mainland chanted slogans prepared by the pro-establishment groups, but did not express any dissatisfaction with the problems in their homeland.

The rally was organized by a range of pro-establishment groups, and media outlets said many of the demonstrators did not appear to be local people. The rally organizers prepared meals for them and organized travel so they could join the rally. Several journalists disclosed that certain groups paid some demonstrators to join the rally.

In July, China's State Council Information Office, one of the key offices censoring online messages, announced a campaign to target all mobile phones and instant communication services, including WeChat. All account holders are now required to register in their real names, and no individual is allowed to use WeChat's public platform to post any messages, including news reports.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: "It is outrageous that the authorities should restrict people's right to earn an income. It is clearly wrong to shut down Wang's microblog accounts when he has not committed any illegal act. Regrettably, the authorities are threatening people, saying their lives will be affected if they continue to express dissent.

"This move also affects online businesses, which could affect China's economic situation."

We urge the Chinese authorities to stop harassing people and to lift unreasonable rules that restrict people's rights.


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