Some 3.2 million Twitter users in China risk detention and threats of Beijing's new, wide and punitive censorship campaign


Official media such as People's Daily and the Xinhua News Agency, controlled by the Communist Party and the Xinhua News Agency, use Twitter to shape the country's perceptions of the world.

"On the one hand, the public media is leveraging all the features of these platforms to reach millions of people," said Sarah Cook, senior analyst for East Asia at Freedom House, a pro-democracy research group based in the USA. "On the other hand, ordinary Chinese people risk interrogation and jail for using these same platforms to communicate with each other and with the outside world."

LinkedIn, the professional networking service and one of the few authorized US social media networks in China, has long ceded to the country's censorship. He briefly described the Chinese stories of Peter Humphrey, a British private investigator who had already been jailed in China last month, and Zhou Fengsuo, a human rights activist, this month. The company has sent both countries e-mails containing language similar to the messages it sends to users when it deletes publications violating censorship rules.

"What we have seen in recent weeks is that the authorities have desperately escalated social media censorship," said Humphrey. "I think it's pretty amazing that, on this mantle and dagger basis, LinkedIn is gagging people and preventing their comments from being seen in China."

Both accounts have been restored. In one statement, LinkedIn apologized for the deletion of the accounts and said it had done by accident. "Our Trust and Safety team is updating our internal processes to prevent such an error from happening again," the release said.


Peter Humphrey, a private investigator who has already been imprisoned in China. LinkedIn, the professional networking site, briefly released its Chinese account last month. Credit Frank Augstein / Associated Press

With Twitter, the Chinese authorities are targeting a dynamic platform for Chinese activists.

Interviews with nine Twitter users polled by the police and the examination of a recording of a four-hour interrogation revealed a similar pattern: the police produced tweeting impressions and recommended users to delete specific messages or the entirety of their accounts. Officers often complained of messages criticizing the Chinese government or specifically mentioning Mr. Xi.

Police used threats and sometimes physical restraints, according to Twitter users interviewed. Huang Chengcheng, an activist with more than 8,000 followers on Twitter, said his hands and feet were handcuffed to a chair while he was interrogated for eight hours in Chongqing. Once the investigation ended, he signed a promise not to use Twitter.