Government censors have banned a prominent poet from social media platforms after she wrote a poem that many interpreted as a commentary on the upcoming 20th National Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), during which the leader of the CCP, Xi Jinping, will seek an unprecedented third term in office.
Sichuan-based poet Hu Minzhi’s Weibo account posted a brief message saying “This account does not exist”, before disappearing on September 29.
Hu was reportedly banned from Weibo and Douyin after reporting that she had been “invited to drink tea”, a euphemism for being brought in to speak to state security police in early September.
“She was not heard [on social media] for several days now,” Voice of America reporter Ye Bing said via Twitter. “The prospects for his situation, for his freedom, look bleak.
His tweet was retweeted by Beijing-based freelance journalist Gao Yu.
Hu’s ban came after she published a poem titled “Waiting for the Wind”, a poem that apparently satirizes people’s lack of agency around the party congress – one of the most popular political meetings. important events to have taken place in China since Xi took power.
“More than a billion people are waiting for the wind,” the poem says. “It will come from the direction it came from.”
“Officials are waiting; contractors; ordinary people too,” he continues. “We have no idea if it will be an easterly wind or a westerly wind this fall…a wind blowing forward, or a wind blowing backward.”
Roll back China
The poem came as many political commentators had begun to highlight concerns that Xi is on the verge of returning China to a centrally controlled economy and political culture similar to the Mao era, and away from the economic reform and opening up started by the late Supreme Leader Deng. Xiaoping in 1979.
“We just wait here like puppets…to hear our fate; ours personally, as well as that of the country,” the poem says.
Hu’s apparent silence comes as Chinese police detained more than a million people in a national security operation ahead of the party congress.
Beijing resident Wang Jiangqing said the city was now filled with soldiers and police.
“The 20th National Congress is approaching and they are getting more and more nervous,” Wang told RFA. “You can’t go anywhere now.”
But he seemed to believe the measures would be counterproductive.
“The more they do this, the more unstable the country becomes,” he said.
Beijing resident Li Ning said anyone from out of town was escorted out of town, while even mah jong games were banned ahead of the event.
“All police stations are responsible for [detaining people]with quotas for each officer for arrests and solved cases,” Li told RFA. “It’s about making up numbers, so they detain people for the slightest thing.
Overview of petitioners
A resident of the northeast city of Shenyang, surnamed Liu, said things were similar where she lives.
“They’re just making up numbers — they’re gradually working their way through 1.4 billion people,” Liu said. “They arrest whoever they want, or how could they exercise authority.”
“Any meeting, any movement will result in denunciation and people being detained,” she said.
A Shanghai resident surnamed Chen said a large number of petitioners – ordinary Chinese pursuing complaints against the government – were sent out of town to stay in resorts, farmhouses or cheap hotels under police escort throughout.
“[They are holding them] either at home or at a tourist resort,” Chen said. “The petitioners are classified [by threat level].”
“For example, if you are a key petitioner, they will detain you at a resort, while they give others a sum of money and tell them not to petition [around the party congress].”
“Some will send you to a farm or a hotel… and pay for three meals a day.”
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.