Social Media Blogger Detained After Complaining About Pollution

Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei have detained a man with nearly 200,000 followers on social media after he accused local government officials of corruption in a tweet.

Luo Lanqing was detained at a hotel in the Fancheng district of Hubei’s Xiangyang city on Dec. 7, the police said in a statement.

“Luo was a suspect on the run, in an investigation being conducted by Daye city police,” the statement said. “He has now been taken back to Daye by them.”

Luo’s account on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo was last updated at around 7 p.m. on Dec. 7. His last tweet read: “I call on the Hubei provincial authorities to pay attention to the fact that Deng Qijia, an official with the Liurenba township government in Daye city, has been reported by local people for corruption.”

He said Deng had been reported to the disciplinary branch of the ruling Chinese Communist Party three years earlier, but that there had been no movement on the investigation.

“Perhaps there’s a bit of laziness or deliberate protection going on here?” Luo wrote in the tweet, which has since been deleted.

A source close to Luo told RFA on Tuesday that no legal documents have yet been issued in connection with his detention.

“We don’t know what Luo Lanqing’s situation is right now, because we’ve had no update whatsoever,” the source said. “The police won’t say what’s happening, and they won’t let anyone visit him. There has been no official notification of arrest, nothing.”

An official who answered the phone at the Fancheng district police department declined to comment.

“A lot of people get detained every day, and I don’t know anything about this person you’re talking about,” the official said. “I’m just the duty officer, and I don’t know the details of this matter.”

Calls to the Daye municipal police department rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

‘Trumped-up charges’

The source said he didn’t believe that Luo had tried to evade capture, however.

“If he was on the run, would he be sending out tweets every day, as opposed to hiding?” the source said. “These are trumped-up charges so they can detain him for speaking out on behalf of ordinary people.”

“Perhaps the government thought he had become a little too outspoken lately,” the source said.

Fellow social media user Dai Kejian said Luo is no stranger to online activism, and had been forced to stay away from lodged a complaint about China Jinjiu, a fortified winemaker, over environmental pollution in his hometown.

Dai said Luo had already consulted him on hiring a defense lawyer, during a recent trip to the southwestern city of Kunming.

“China Jinjiu is in his hometown, and the pollution affected his hometown, so he reported them,” he said. “It’s possible that the company is in cahoots with the local police; part of the local elite, and that this is their revenge.”

An employee who answered the phone at China Jinjiu on Tuesday said they had never heard of Luo.

Activists say China has an exemplary set of environmental protection laws, but that environmental officials lack the power to impose it on powerful vested interests at the local level.

Radio Free Asia,2017-12-12

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