Chinese-Americans More at Risk in China for Social Media Use than Other Americans

Chinese-Americans More at Risk in China for Social Media Use than Other Americans

Ge Xun's Arrest Highlights the Chinese Beliefs and Fears about Social Media

It’s no secret in the international community that China does not have the best human rights record in the world; it also logically follows that China does not have the best human rights record in the world in terms of its use of social media and suspicion surrounding social media. Today’s story of Ge Xun, an American citizen visiting China who was brutally questioned for several hours regarding his use of Twitter, does nothing but underscore the opinion that China's fear of social media is resulting in human rights abuses.

Ge Xun was abducted by Chinese authorities and asked questions about both his blogging and Twitter accounts. The authorities physically harmed the Chinese physicist and tried to “encourage” him to give his Twitter password, but he refused. Instead, Ge Xun opened his Twitter account to show the Chinese what his Twitter account contained--nothing offensive to the Chinese or the Chinese government--and was released by the government after twenty-one hours of interrogation.

Ge Xun claims that his original intention was never to overthrow the government, but to address the multitude of human rights problems within China and that he was totally caught off guard when the undercover policeman apprehended him in the streets.

During the interrogation, Ge Xun was kicked and punched while the Chinese authorities asked him repeatedly about his Twitter account and his blogging activities. He is not the only American citizen to suffer from the Chinese authorities fear of being maligned on Twitter, Facebook, or in the blogosphere. Some Americans who were originally born in China are actually imprisoned within China for what Americans would view as first amendment rights.

Wang Songlian is quoted in the New York Times as saying that holding passports from countries like the United States and Australia is much more dangerous for people who were originally born in China or Australia than for those with different origins. In this way, China sounds somewhat similar to Thailand if you consider the case of the Thai-Americn who was recently imprisoned by the Thai government for writing negatively about the King of Thailand, who is revered in Siam.

That China is starting to understand the potential ramifications of the Internet and a freer media that is harder to control is becoming more and more evident. Unfortunately, their understanding seems to be leading to more actions like this instead of more transparency and less human rights violations.