Freed Chinese cartoonist refuses to be cowed by Internet crackdown

Wed Oct 23, 2013 3:19am EDT
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By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING (Reuters) - Political cartoonist Wang Liming has spent three years publishing caricatures skewering China's leaders and is no stranger to the country's police. But it was a microblog post that got him into trouble last week.

Wang, 40, was the latest person targeted by authorities in a widening crackdown on online "rumor-mongering". Hundreds of people have been detained since August, say Chinese media and rights groups. Most have been released, but some are still being held on criminal charges.

The latest clampdown reflects a desire among Communist Party leaders "to dampen the effectiveness of the Internet to embarrass the government and press it to change", said Maya Wang, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Western countries accused China on Tuesday of arresting activists, curbing Internet use and suppressing ethnic minorities, as the United Nations formally reviewed its rights record for the first time since Xi Jinping became president.

The crackdown is also significant because it is targeting Internet users, like Wang, who don't see themselves as dissidents.

Police in Beijing released Wang late last Thursday after taking him into custody at 11 p.m. on Wednesday. They had summoned Wang on a charge of "suspicion of causing a disturbance" for forwarding a post about a stranded grandmother holding her grandson who had starved to death in the eastern city of Yuyao, which was hit by floods two weeks ago.

"I told (the police), 'How can I be causing a disturbance? All I did was post a microblog'," he told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday.

Wang said he was furious that the Yuyao government was not providing enough relief and was concealing the truth, so he posted a microblog on Tencent's Weibo chat service. The Yuyao government later said on its official Weibo account that Wang's posting was a rumor.   Continued...

Chinese cartoonist Wang Liming uses his computer inside his apartment before an interview with Reuters in Beijing, Ocotober 22, 2013. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic