In China, a tweet can cause more than a headache and explanations in the virtual environment: According to information in a report in The New York Times, authorities in the service of the Chinese government are arresting, interrogating and threatening users of the social network of microblogging, and sometimes extending the threats to their families and even to children not yet born.
Activist Huang Chengcheng said he was forced to sign a pledge to be completely absent from Twitter – after having his members handcuffed to a chair for eight hours and subjected to invasive interrogation.
Pan Xidian, another activist with about 4,000 Twitter users, posted an anti-government cartoon and criticized the policy of detention and questioning by the authorities against the platform. He told the newspaper that in November he was taken to an interrogation that lasted about 20 hours, where he agreed to erase the most critical tweets. Still, shortly thereafter, government agents sought him at his place of employment, putting him in a car and forcing him to sign a term where he acknowledged that he had “disturbed public order.” He was then held for two weeks, being forced to attend pro-government propaganda sessions.
Another activist obtained recordings of his interrogation, where, for four hours, he was questioned about his anti-government stance on Chinese environmental policies. In the audio, it is possible to hear a warning from the agents that everything the user had done or done on the internet would be monitored, in addition to an official warning him to stop using Twitter because if he was arrested for this a second time, could affect his children – if he had any in the future.
Twitter, officially, is banned from being used on Chinese territory and the company itself is not viewed with good eyes by the local government. However, this did not stop many of the country’s citizens from migrating to the San Francisco platform to complain and narrate information and positions of the authoritarian Chinese government. For the most part, Chinese Twitter users are political and human rights activists, as well as journalists and political dissidents.
In the country, there is an official microblogging service, the Weibo; however, due to government control and constant monitoring of the platform by the authorities, few people use it to speak freely about their predilections. Ironically, the Chinese government and several state broadcasters maintain official Twitter profiles.