A Shanghai poet was detained for questioning by Chinese police after she posted to popular microblogging site Sina Weibo calling on her followers to take a stroll en masse along the Huangpu River to bring attention to the waterway where nearly 15,000 dead pigs have recently been found floating.
The dead pigs scandal and the resulting fears of contaminated tap water have become a hot topic of discussion online since the first carcasses were discovered on March 7, 2013. Web users have posted sarcastic pictures to poke fun at the situation, and some have questioned the government's management of the incident.
But outspoken poet Pan Ting was detained by police and banned from Weibo after she published on March 14, 2013 for her 50,000 followers a call for an organized walk along the Huangpu River [zh], although she mentioned that it was meant as a “pure stroll” without any banners or slogans.
Soon after, local police visited her home. Pan was forced to hand in all her communication devices and “drink tea” with police, a term used to describe interrogations by police about a person's online activities.
After she was released, Pan commented on her other Weibo account “Pan Ting's backyard” [zh]:
When I was banned on Weibo before, I used to call Sina customer service with anger and ask how long it would take. I also asked friends to spread the message on Weibo to support me. However, this time I didn't do that. I feel very disappointed. You even shut out a voice concerned about local pollution and your own lives. I will see how long you will shut me out. At least the tea uncle said to me: I understand where you are coming from.
Before proposing the walk, Pan ran into trouble with Weibo's censors, who repeatedly deleted questions that she posted on March 14, 2013 directed at the Shanghai municipal government regarding the dead pigs.
Pan wrote [zh]:
Today, I even cried when my posts were deleted … the first time after having posts deleted for the past two years. I can not stand it. I just want to fight for a clean Huangpu River in our hometown. Is there anything wrong with that?
Many Weibo users showed support for Pan Ting. Writer Zhao Chu called for [zh] more people to pay attention to Pan and her situation:
Friends in Shanghai, especially friends in law and the media industries, please keep an eye on @Poet Pan Ting. To a certain department: You don't need to be so sensitive with a young girl who just shows her concern about the environment. Some individuals only voiced their opinion; this should be praised. It's not necessary to panic at the slightest sound. After all, you also drink water from the Huangpu River.
Writer Li Minsheng demanded [zh] an explanation for Pan's detention:
Just because a young woman said a few honest words about the dead pig issue, she was detained, banned, and forced to hand in all her communication devices. She was even “missing” for three hours! Her only request was: “Please do not come ring my door bell early in the morning or in the middle of the night to scare my mom.” As a big city that has hosted the World Expo, why can't Shanghai tolerate a poet? What law has Pan Ting violated? Please respond to the whole nation, Shanghai!
Xu Qiuhong echoed [zh]:
She only had 50,000 followers, she just said a few words, and she was banned immediately as if she were a big enemy. The so-called “new government” is just a show. Looking forward to seeing all of this come to an end.
While many showed support for Pan Ting, some also questioned the absence of male voices on this issue. Some Weibo users were particularly disappointed with two famous online personalities Han Han and Zhou Libo who have kept silent on the issue. Sports journalist “Lanzhou Banzhuan Ershi” [zh] criticized Shanghai men:
Poet Pan Ting questioned the dead pigs incident and she was banned. While supporting her, I also want to ask: “Are there any real men in Shanghai?” I haven't heard about any guys in Shanghai getting in trouble with the government by questioning this incident…
Earlier this week Seeing Red in China raised the question as to why Shanghai residents have remained calm about the threat of contaminated water. Perhaps Pan Ting's detention is at least part of the reason.