China: Dissident voice silenced as Xi calls for open criticism
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China: Dissident voice silenced as Xi calls for open criticism

China’s Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping began the lunar new year with a bold statement. The Communist Party “should be able to put up with sharp criticism, correct mistakes if it has committed them and avoid them if it has not,” he said at a new year reception for non-party members last Wednesday in Beijing.

Those who are not among the 80 million members of China’s ruling party “should meanwhile have the courage to tell the truth, speak words jarring on the ear, and truthfully reflect public aspirations,” he said, according to the Xinhua report.

“Will you stop silencing and shutting down microblog accounts?”, the South China Morning Post quoted former Google China Chairman Kai-fu Li in an article titled “Scepticism rife after Xi calls for Communist Party to accept criticism.”

One blog that so far hasn’t been shut down is a Party Chairman fan-microblog on Sina Weibo. College dropout Zhang Hongming started the fanblog in November, shortly after Xi assumed succeeded Hu Jintao as Party chairman. He tracked Xi’s inspection tours online so well, that even national broadcaster China Central Television complained that he “was quicker and closer to him than us.”

The microblog has almost 800,000 followers. “After all, I am filled with expectations that our new leader will be affable,” Zhang told the Associated Press, who managed to exclusively reveal his identity.

Meanwhile, critical posts on the fanblog have been deleted with accustomed diligence and despite Xi’s bold statement last week. On the day Xi made his statement, police in Nanchong in China’s fourth most populous province Sichuan, summoned Cheng Aihua. The following day, Cheng was criminally charged and detained for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Her father has confirmed that the charges against her are in related to her online activities leading observers to assume that her crime was posting a critical comment on the Party Chairman fanblog:

“This is gonna be fun to watch. All manners of ugly bootlicking to please the emperor. We on the other hand would work harder to seek justice for all who have died in earthquakes, school-bus accidents, floods and brutal abortions.” (h/t @YaxueCao)

The single mother had previously been politically active, tweeted on Tibetan self-immolations and had been detained in Beijing during the Jasmine Revolution, an ill-fated attempt to replicate the Arab Spring in China.

As of Monday morning, searches for her online pseudonym Cheng Wanyun on Sina Weibo have been blocked.

UPDATE: Cheng was released on Monday, subversion charges have been changed to “administrative detention“, according to @YaxueCao.