Sun, Jul 19, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Chinese Twitterer held for repeating murder-rape claim

THE GUARDIAN , BEIJING

The hundreds following amoiist on Twitter were used to his stream of messages. But they ended abruptly with two terse updates early on Thursday morning.

? have been arrested by Mawei police, SOS?he wrote. Then shortly afterwards: ?ls help me, I grasp the phone during police sleep.?br />

His followers quickly passed on his plea to other Twitterers.

But since then there has been silence from amoiist ?also known as Peter Guo, or Guo Bofeng ?who is apparently the latest Internet user in China to be caught up in an inquiry that began with claims of defamation but that police now say involves ?tate secrecy issues.?br />

DETENTIONS

As many as seven bloggers have been detained over claims that a 25-year-old woman, Yan 茄iaoling, had been gang-raped and murdered. It was further alleged that the man responsible was connected to local authorities in her city in Fujian Province.

Officials dismissed the stories, which first surfaced late last month and insisted Yan had suffered a hemorrhage caused by an ectopic pregnancy.

They turned their attention to tracking down those they suspected were responsible for the stories.

Global Voices Online said Guo posted an interview with Yan? mother in which she repeated the claims and accused local authorities of a cover-up.

An employee at Mawei police station said: ?hese cases are in the process of investigation ... We will release information if there is progress.?br />

The case is testament to the growing ability of Chinese citizens to share information through the Internet and to the restrictions on those who do.

In a recent interview over the government? Green Dam censorship program, Guo said: ?he significance of internet in China is huge. It can? change the current situation in China right away, but it has deeply influenced China.?br />

?ROUBLEMAKER?/strong>

Guo, who described himself on Twitter as ? troublemaker in Amoy [Xiamen], living with character sales,?is reportedly a professional interpreter.

His two calls for help were in English, although he generally uses Chinese.

He often blogs and tweets about current affairs and internet censorship and has more than 1,500 Twitter followers.

A message posted several hours before his pleas read: ?eter Guo, one of the twitterers in China, originally from the Fujian countryside, not a famous blogger; people called him amoiist, good character, young, handsome.?br />

Liu Xiaoyuan, who represents another detained blogger, You Jingyou, said lawyers had been told they could not meet their clients because the case involved ?tate secrets.?br />

Twitter is blocked in China but many in the country still tweet through a variety of means.

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