More than 200 people have signed an online petition calling for the release of a Beijing-based microgblogger who was detained for "untruthful terror-mongering" because of a microblog post he made two weeks ago ahead of the opening of the 18th party congress.
Zhai Xiaobing, a 36-year-old fund manager in Beijing's Miyun county, was taken into police custody on November 7, a day before the congress convened at the Great Hall of the People. He wrote on his Twitter account on November 5 what appeared to be a mock movie synopsis that included a morbid prediction that more than 2,000 delegates at the congress would die when the Great Hall's roof collapsed, according to Liu Yanping, one of Zhai's two friends who visited his home and family late Saturday night.
In his tweet, Zhai said the tragedy would be the setting for Final Destination 6 - the next instalment in a series of popular supernatural horror films - and that seven people would survive, only to die under bizarre circumstances later, just like in the film series. "Is this a game of God or the wrath of Death? How will the mystic number 18 unlock the gates of Hell? An earthshaking debut will be seen at the global premier on November 8!" Zhai added in his post.
His friend Liu said that anyone with a sense of humour could tell the tweet was obviously a joke meant to get a laugh.
"No one should panic, because nobody should take it seriously," she said.
Liu said that Zhai's family had been notified of his detention but wasn't allowed to visit him, and they didn't know what charges he might face.
Miyun county police, who are overseeing Zhai's detention, were not available to comment yesterday, and Beijing police authorities hadn't responded to media inquiries. The detention was shocking to many mainlanders, who generally believe that Twitter - which is inaccessible on the mainland without the help of software to circumvent internet censors - is a much safer platform for people to post on without fear of retribution, compared with mainland-based social networking sites that are heavily regulated.
The petition calling for Zhai's released was posted on a Google Docs spreadsheet late Saturday night and was still available last night for anyone to sign. It urges Beijing authorities not to take the tweets too seriously, and to not spoil the public's opinion of the newly appointed leadership.