The Internet Organization of China’s New Generation of Nationalists

The website Anti-CNN was launched in 2008 by a group of young Chinese students, led by Rao Jin, who was dissatisfied with the biased and distorted reporting of China by Western media. In 2009, former CNN Beijing Bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon had an interesting conversation with the group of young Chinese behind Anti-CNN. She said ‘it will be very interesting to see how the Anti-CNN website continues to evolve,’ and that ‘Rao Jin has plans to develop an English-language platform – with a less provocative, more friendly name – through which his community can engage in dialogue and debate with the English-speaking world.’

Indeed, Anti-CNN has evolved three years on. The website no longer exists. In its place is April Web, which also comes with an English platform. They describe themselves as carrying across ‘the vision of the youth and Chinese identity while engaging in issues of global concerns,’ and ‘a media platform to meet and encourage healthy, constructive, and progressive minds for empowerment.’

At Radio France International, commentator Kai Wen has a recent piece about the group of young people behind April Web, labelled as China’s new generation of nationalists. Below is a full translation of the article.


After the Lhasa riots on 14 March 2008, a website called ‘Anti-CNN’ appeared in China. It heavily criticized the bias of the Western media while reporting on China, and won a wide following among young people. Subsequently, on 19 April, the Chinese communities in Paris, London, Berlin and Los Angeles held mass gatherings with the theme of ‘Supporting the Beijing Olympics, Opposing Media Unfairness’. This marked the beginning of a new generation of Chinese nationalists, and ‘April Youth’ has since then became their symbol.

Three years later, many of those who joined the mass gatherings have lost their political enthusiasm and returned to normal life. But not for ‘April Youth’. Quite the contrary, it has become more organized and institutionalised thanks to the internet.

Today, Anti-CNN, which was built by Tsinghua University graduate Rao Jin no longer exists. Its successor is ‘April Web’. Rao Jin is still the core member. He is surrounded by more than twenty like-minded young people, who manage an array of media including April Web, April Space, April Media, April Youth Forum and April Miniblog. Although its Chinese brand name is now called ‘April’, it is not difficult to find the ‘AC’ logo in its forums and spaces, reminding visitors of its Anti-CNN root.

It seems that this group of young people are outliers in the current Chinese system. On surface, by being administrators of a non-official website which relies on revenues from server hostings, they do not depend on the official system. But at the same time, they fiercely defend criticisms directed at the current system, ranging from issues like US foreign policy to German media reporting practices, and from the Wangfujing ‘Jasmine’ protests to the disappearance of Ai Weiwei.

These people are not mobs. In fact, much of the content managing team belong to the post-80s generation, most with undergraduate degrees, some even with Masters, PhDs or overseas study experience in Europe and the US. At the same time, among the major authors for the website, some have deep exposures to French culture, and others are even scholars teaching in overseas universities. But their broad knowledge and the fact that they are outside the officialdom do not prevent them from becoming staunch defenders of the ruling order.

Such paradoxical mentality is perhaps partially explained by a declaration published in April Media earlier this year. The declaration, called ‘History will Remember the April Youth of 2008’, said that ‘this generation of overseas student often struggles and competes alone. As individual overseas students, the difficulties, setbacks, discrimination, repulsion and hostility they face abroad far exceed those they face at home […] As they try in vain to integrate into the core circles of mainstream societies overseas, to develop and realize their dreams, they start to miss the motherland. And the rapid and miraculous development of China presents tremendous attraction for them. The inevitable consequence is the return of the overseas student community to racial and national identity.’

Like what the author said, this generation of young people eats hamburgers, wears Nike, watches NBA and listens with iPod. Spiritually and materially, they are a globalized generation without any precedents. But deep down, they are at a lost and nervous. Such illusions amid affluence, when combined with selective amnesia under the national education, create a longing for utopia, and an argument for the legitimacy of the political system. In the above-mentioned declaration, the author quoted Mao Zedong, ‘we must be prepared to take the blind alley, and to hurry on after walking though it!’ In another declaration, a young scholar from a famous law school in Beijing said in a Maoist tone, ‘we will discuss about the world order and offer our prescriptions in passionate words […] The Western-centric knowledge system is increasingly at odds with our experience. Let’s reconstruct the world’s image and embrace a wider world.’

Such trends are not only found in these declarations, but also in many aspects of the April Web. Looking at one of its most unique and emphasized video, which features Sima Nan, Sima Pingbang, Wang Xiaodong and Kong Qingdong, you cannot but wonder how a website labelling itself as representing the ‘Youth’s Vision’ could be so similar to Utopia Village (wuyouzhixiang), a leftist and Maoist website. In just three years, the newly emerging nationalists have merged with the generation ten or even twenty years older.

The evidence of this merging could also be found in the post-80s generation’s Global Times style of reasoning. Shortly after the disappearance of Ai Weiwei, the April Web has quickly shoot a three-episode interview series, ‘Onlooking Ai Weiwei’. The respective themes are ‘Anti-Chinese Arts are Darlings of the West’, ‘If Ai Weiwei and the Likes Succeed, China will be Worse’, and ‘Bashing China and Beautifying the West are just Business as Usual’.

‘April Youth’ defends Tsinghua University in the controversies surrounding a call for Tsinghua students to be party loyalists. Tsinghua student Jiang Fangzhou, also belonging to the post-80s generation, critically likened her fellows as ‘worldly cadres without independent thinking’ in a letter to the university. She illustrated the absurd situation in China’s higher education institutions with Wei Guo, a young student aspiring to enter the Central Propaganda Department in Chen Guanzhong’s novel, The Fat Years: China, 2013. They ‘are not unconcerned, only that they willingly defend the government – like defending treasures they are going to inherit.’

As always, inheritance is where family arguments stem from. Jiang Fangzhou’s concern may be a reflection of the conspiracy theories surrounding the fight for the inheritance. And it remains to be seen whether the ‘April Youth’ in these ‘fat years’ are really a bunch of idealists.

In Brief: 90% of Xinjiang Child Beggars are Kidnapped

In today’s Global Times is this tiny tidbit from Xinhua. What I’m quoting here is the entire story as the GT printed it:

The government of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has promised to find and take home native Xinjiang street children, many of whom have to make a living by begging or stealing.

At least 90 percent of the children are kidnap victims, most come from less developed areas in southern Xinjiang, according to a report by the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. (Xinhua)

This flies in the face of a lot of the reasoning that was thrown around earlier this year to take down the “Rescue Street Children” campaign on Sina Weibo and elsewhere (see this previous post on for more on that). Moreover, it very much confirms what we’re being told by some of the people we’ve spoken to for our documentary, who have said that nearly 100% of the Uyghur children they rescue from street life (begging and pickpocketing, mostly) have been kidnapped.

Luckily, since the demise of the “Rescue Street Children” movement, Sina’s users have kept active in the social sphere, and are currently waging a campaign to rescue whiny, lame college kids from being single.

Of course, it’s not a surprise that the chief thing most people had against the “Rescue Street Children” is a total lie. I’m a bit surprised they’re reporting it in the media, although of course this report sort of makes it sound like the problem is only in Xinjiang — it isn’t, the kids are taken from there to cities all over the country — and it is a two-sentence wire story they’re running on a Saturday…clearly someone’s hoping it stays low-profile.

Note: If anyone can find the original Xinhua report, I’d love to see it. There’s this story about how Xinjiang is working to rescue street kids, but it doesn’t contain the numbers in the GT article…

The Real Threat

While the central government is busy rounding up everyone who might have once glanced at Ai Weiwei, and simultaneously instituting what appears to be some kind of “no lawyer left behind” detention policy, the rest of China is mostly ignoring it. That’s not a surprise, of course; it isn’t being reported in the media aside from the occasional screeching prose of the state-media’s shrillest news organs, which no one reads anyway.

Whether Ai is guilty or not; whether these other lawyers and writers and “dissidents” are guilty or not, they aren’t an actual threat to China or to CCP rule. Neither was the Jasmine Revolution, which — shock! — wasn’t orchestrated by any of the people they’re now rounding up anyway.

What could be a threat is the growing tension between the privileged and the non-privileged classes, the haves and the have-nots, the daguanguiren ((达官贵人)) and the laobaixing ((老百姓)). There is, at present, no push for revolution, no great Westernized uprising. There’s nothing to make a sexy headline out of on CNN. What there is, though, is bubbling dissatisfaction just below the surface of everyday life that bursts out in spurts when the inequities of society make themselves unavoidably obvious.

At present, this happens mostly with car accidents.

Everyone knows, of course, about the Li Gang incident, but there have been many like it, and when conditions are right, what starts as a traffic accident quickly becomes a “mass incident.”

Take for example, this incident in Changchun:
Essentially, what happened is that a police officer driving his own car got angry with an old woman who wouldn’t get out of his way. He eventually got out of the car, argued with the old woman, and then started to beat her, grabbing her by the hair and punching her in the face, according to an interview she gave that’s excerpted at the end of the video. The old woman’s daughter came over and he hit her, too. That was when passers-by started to gather, and they were not amused.

Watch the video. At the 1:00 mark, the narrator says “Rationally, everyone [jumped in] to prevent the [police]man’s crude behavior.” Then the video cuts abruptly to a shot of a mob going absolutely apeshit on the police officer’s car (which he, by that point, was wisely hiding inside). Even after police arrived, they kept smashing the car, and began chanting “Apologize, apologize!” Several scuffles with police occurred. Hours later, after police unsuccessfully tried to get the mob to disperse, the police finally got the man out of his car and into a waiting police van (2:19, note the people in the background still fighting to break through the police lines and attack him).

Of course, there’s more to this than privileged versus commoner (he was also beating an elderly woman, which wouldn’t win him many friends regardless of the prevailing mood of the time in any society). But the old woman he beat puts it in terms of haves and have-nots, and apparently so did the policeman. She says he told her it didn’t matter if he beat her to death or not, he could afford to pay the compensation money. She also said he looked down on thelaobaixing, the common people.

This is, of course, an isolated incident. But this kind of thing happens a lot, and moreover, it obviously speaks to deeper issues. Unsurprisingly, it spread quickly across the internet, and has been reposted many times already. This posting on, for example, has already been viewed over half a million times. So has another posting of the same video on the same site. This one, on, has over 600,000 viewings.

What’s most telling about this video is not the comments, which call for the offending officer’s head on a platter, and many of which also condemn police officers and public servants in general for their increasing lack of concern for the common people. No, what’s most interesting about this video is that it’s from early December 2010, but it’s still being passed around on Chinese social networks today.

These stories keep getting passed around beyond their news shelf life, I suspect, because they are tapping into an increasingly common feeling of anger and exploitation among those who really are laobaixing. The story may be from December, but the feeling is as widespread today as it was then, probably moreso.

Are people about to take to the streets and launch a second Communist revolution to overthrow the new bourgeoisie? Absolutely not. But instead of harassing innocent dissidents and their lawyers, China’s leadership would do well to pay more attention to these issues.

Ai Weiwei may prove to foreigners that there’s no rule of law in China, but most Chinese don’t know or care. What they care about are cases like this, and little by little, the police and the businessmen and the chengguan and the officials — all agents of the government and the Party — seem to be doing their best to drill home the message: we do not care about you.

Netizens on Food Safety

Tainted milk. Poisoned milk. Radioactive spinach ((Which, actually is safe to eat, but still…)). Contaminated mantou. Fake wine. Additive-addled pork. Genetically-terrifying strawberries ((I saw a report on this on CCTV a month or so ago that has put me off the things entirely, but I can’t seem to find a link now.)). Heavy-metal rice. And most of that just in the past few weeks. It seems that even as food prices continue to rise, the quality is going down the tubes. Or at least, we’re finally learning what kind of food we’re paying so much money for. In the wake of today’s news about the contaminated mantou (steamed buns) and the ongoing story of the poisoned milk in Gansu, here are some selected ((Yes, I selected them. No, they’re probably not representative of the entirety of China. That said, I chose them more or less randomly, and translated every single one that I read save really short or repetitive ones, and one which contained some really poetic language I had no idea how to translate.)) netizen comments on food in China.

It’s worth noting these comments are all from Sina Weibo, not Twitter, which means they’re accessible within China, and that the harsher comments may have been deleted by Sina’s censors.


“After the [poisoned milk], there came mantou and bread [contamination]…how am I supposed to buy food after this?” ((It’s worth noting that there are tons of comments like this; I’ve just translated this one to represent them, but I came across a lot more.))

“Even little children know that food has an expiration date, do they really mean to suggest that law enforcement officials [responsible for inspecting the food safety at these factories] didn’t discover [that expired mantou was being used to make more mantou]? That’s impossible! “


“There’s no big scandal here, don’t be alarmist. Isn’t this just inserting some dye for color? Isn’t it just putting expired mantou back to work? What is that, it’s no big deal…As a great Chinese citizen, as the descendants of Yan Di and Huang Di, as the Chinese who have successfully made it to this point, you’re not even willing to eat this, and you’re not ashamed?”

“Take the people from the [relevant] government department out and shoot them. Why is it always the media that discovers this stuff first?”

“Any food may have something added to it, so why aren’t the higher-level leaders nervous? They think that of course the common people must eat from the same special, environmentally protected stock that they do. From Sanlu ((The guys who brought you melamine-milk)) to Shuanghui ((The guys who brought you pork with illegal additives)) to mantou ((There is a clever play on words in the Chinese text here, but I can’t think of a good way to translate the joke into English)), what high-level official has been investigated or forced to resign? The common people are forced to determine for themselves whether even basic foods and drinks are poisoned or not. Leaders of the food safety [department], have you no sense of shame? If those food inspection officials who shirked their duty aren’t executed, the problem of contaminated food will never disappear.”

“If sea cucumber or abalone was contaminated, that would be one thing; you could just not eat it. But if even bread and steamed buns have problems, what can we do? Actually, we’re a little strong; even in this kind of environment we can subsist. We have nothing to fear from 2012, whatever happens, it won’t be any worse than things are now.”

“[It turns out that] at the apocalypse, it is humans who will destroy themselves.”

“China itself is a society of mutual poisoning, a society of mutual pain-infliction. You add some [poison] to the milk, I put sweet additives into expired mantou, he puts additives into the food he feeds his pigs, oil, crab, rice, duck eggs…even if the milk manufacturers don’t drink milk, they eat mantou. Even if the mantou makers don’t eat mantou, they eat pork. Even if the pork farmers don’t eat pork, they drink milk. In the end, we’re just hurting ourselves. The nation is in peril, inviting ridicule and shame. “

“[With regards to the mantou contamination], I feel this is abnormal, [but] but it reflects a normal phenomenon in the Chinese food industry. The moral logic in the Chinese food industry is that as long as the consumer doesn’t immediately die of the poison, it’s acceptable to pursue the maximization of material gains by any and all means available. [Past examples of this] seem to include: pickled veggies, chicken feet, salted meat, sausages, dumplings, milk powder…”


There really are virtually no positive comments about this — unsurprisingly, people don’t like eating expired garbage or drinking poison — but even I was surprised by some of the really harsh ones. I’m not sure food in China is any less safe today than it was five years ago; in fact, if anything, I’m inclined to suspect it’s actually safer. But the fact that we’re hearing about it (CCTV is obviously on the hunt, and good on ’em for it!) and the confidence in the government (which seems to be low and ever-dropping) have combined to create a food consumer market that views everything they hear with skepticism. So far, it’s led to mostly angry microblog posts and a run on iodized salt (even though it’s totally useless and the government had been saying that). Clearly, it’s a contentious issue, though, and if these scandals keep popping up, one wonders if the government will consider picking a high-level sacrificial lamb or two to take the fall.

“Economic Crimes”? How Dumb Do They Think We Are?

In my last post, I stated that China has the right to prosecute Ai for economic crimes if he’s committed them. And that’s certainly true. But it does gloss over the fact that Ai’s arrest probably had nothing to do with “economic crimes.” Reader Mitch sent me an email with some helpful links, which I’ll borrow here to illustrate the point.

When Ai was first arrested, no reason for his detention was announced. All we knew was that he had been taken away by police, and that on April 3rd, his art studio had been searched and his assistants were also detained.

Then, on April 6th, we got this from the Global Times, implying the reason for his arrest: “It was reported his departure procedures were incomplete.” The rest of the piece is full of negative language about Ai’s political views and activities. Guarded language, yes. But the Global Times is a State-run paper, and editorials on subjects like this one are definitely written only with the approval of high-level government figures.

Later that day comes the announcement that Ai is being investigated for “economic crimes.” (Note that there’s still no information about why they’re detaining Ai’s assistant, Wen Tao).

Then, on April 8th, the police finally conduct a thorough search of Ai’s finance office.

What’s important here is the timeline. If Ai is really being investigated for economic crimes, why did it take five days to tell us that? Why was it first suggested there was something wrong with his “departure procedures”? Why was his art studio searched days before his finance office, which is where the evidence of his economic crimes would presumably be?

There are other questions, too: Why is Wen Tao still being held? Why were the other assistants released? And what kind of questions were the assistants asked when they were being held? Were they questions about economics or about politics?

To me, the most poignant bit of evidence is that they took so long to search Ai’s finance office. It indicates either that the search for “economic crimes” is something that occurred to the police after they arrested him (most likely), or that the police inexplicably couldn’t get a warrant for the finance office until a week after the arrest (highly unlikely, since they got a warrant for his studio quite quickly), or that they’re just really incompetent (unlikely).

You have to wonder who they’re trying to fool with this….

The Global Times, Translated

The Global Times (as one would expect) has decided to take this whole Ai Weiwei nonsense head on. For those of you who have trouble reading between the lines of Chinese newspapers (i.e., no one), we’re providing a translation. Note: this is our first ever gibberish-to-English translation ((Another note: this is meant to be funny, if you hadn’t guessed already.))

Political activism cannot be a legal shield

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is being investigated over “suspected economic crimes,” according to authorities Thursday. Some Western media outlets immediately questioned the charge as a “catch-all crime,” and insisted on interpreting the case in their own way.

Translation: Despite our explicit instructions to the contrary, you annoying foreigners have a habit of “interpreting” things based on sources, factual data, historical precedents, and common sense, rather than the Ministry of Culture’s press releases.

Western media claimed that Ai was “missing” or had “disappeared” in previous reports, despite their acknowledgement of Ai’s detainment. They used such words to paint the Chinese government as a “kidnapper.”

Translation: Look, just because we dragged the guy away, refused to admit it for several days, and didn’t tell anyone in his family doesn’t mean we kidnapped the guy! We prefer to call it surprise involuntary secret fun time.

Now they describe the police’s charge as “laughable” and flout the spirit of the law. They depict anyone conducting anti-government activities in China as being innocent, and as being exempt unconditionally from legal pursuit.

Translation: Just because we arrest a whole bunch of dissidents, you act like we’re cracking down on dissidents or something? Baseless. These guys just all cheated on their taxes. At the same time.

Diplomats and officials from countries such as the US and Germany on Wednesday rebuked China once again over human rights. A mayor from South Korea also issued a statement pressuring China to release Ai soon. Such intensive intervention has barely been seen in China of late.

Translation: We really enjoyed that downtime during the worst of the recession, when all of you shut up because you were afraid we would call in your debts.

Ai’s detention is one of the many judicial cases handled in China every day. It is pure fantasy to conclude that Ai’s case will be handled specially and unfairly. The era of judicial cases involving severely unjust, false or wrong charges has gone.

Translation: Look, our terrible track record is no reason to just assume this trial will also be rigged! After all, it’s not like our court system is totally beholden to some kind of political apparatus or…oh. Nevermind.

Nowadays, corrupt officials and the occasional dissident may view their own cases as being handled unfairly: The former believe their merits offset faults, and the latter see China’s legal system as maintaining an “illegal” existence. Ai once said China was living a “crazy, black” era. This is not the mainstream perception among Chinese society.

Translation: Forget about that whole “economic crimes” thing. That’s so five paragraphs ago. Ai is a dissident whose views are out of touch with mainstream society!

China’s legal system ensures the basic order of this large-scale country. It guarantees the balanced development of civil livelihood and social establishment. Besides, it maintains an economic order that not only propels domestic growth but also generates foreign exchange powerful enough to purchase US treasury bonds.

Translation: Before you criticize our legal system, remember you owe us money!

The integrated legal system is the framework of China. The West wants to bring changes to this framework, shaping it as they please, and transforming the nation into a compliant puppet. They have succeeded in creating many such puppets around the world.

Translation: Our legal system is very integrated, in that it is governed by and answers to the Party. Western, non-integrated judicial systems are merely imperialist plots.

China is not the dangerous place of Western description. Otherwise, Ai would not have returned to China from the US, and Western diplomats and businessmen would not view China as the best place for doing business. But like other safe places in the world, China is only safe for law-abiding citizens, and nobody is allowed to see illegal acts go unpunished.

Translation: China is not a dangerous place unless you break the law. Don’t ask which law, though. We prefer to just detain you first, and keep that whole law part a surprise until we’ve decided which one you broke.

The charge of “suspected economic crimes” does not mean Ai will be found guilty. The case should be handled properly through legal procedures, and Western pressure should not weigh upon the court’s decision.

Translation: That said, we might be totally making all this “economic crimes” stuff up.

If Ai’s “suspected economic crimes” are justified, the conviction should not consider his “pro-democracy” activities. The only relation between the two is probably the lesson that anyone who engages in political activities needs to keep “clean hands.”

Translation: Here is the part where we say something rational, to make you feel like everything else we said might have also made sense. But then we follow that up with a warning about how people who engage in politics need to be careful! Except, of course, actual politicians. Because who are we kidding, they can do whatever the fuck they want!

If Ai is found not guilty, his acquittal should transcend politics too. However the authorities should learn to be more cautious and find sufficient evidence before detaining public figures next time.

Translation: We are starting to feel a little nervous about this whole thing, though.


This is just meant as a humor piece. In actuality, the Global Times is right that if Ai Weiwei has actually committed economic crimes, he should be convicted, and that his “pro-democracy” activities shouldn’t affect his sentence in this case one way or the other. However, even if these crimes are real — and there’s not a shred of evidence yet that they are — one wonders if all the manpower spent on investigating the finances of a man who makes art installations for a living might be better spent investigating the guys who make tofu buildings, poisoned foods, and fake baijiu for a living (or, better yet, the government workers who “supervise” them!).

In actuality, if there are crimes, China certainly has the right to make that case, and I don’t see why the police should be required to present evidence to the media at this juncture. That said, from a PR standpoint, they must understand that in the overall context of the past few months and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, journalists really have no choice but to interpret the arrest as political. And the long delay in naming the reason for Ai’s arrest (and confirming he was arrested at all) did not look good. If this is a totally legitimate case, China has a right to prosecute it, but it’s hardly fair to get upset at people for drawing one conclusion if you refuse to give them any evidence that points toward the other.

For the Nth time, China needs to hire some PR people who understand the Western media. Either that, or stop caring what the Western media says.

Me, I’m a fan of innocent until proven guilty, so: Free Ai Weiwei.

Two China Documentaries to Support

Many of you know that I’m currently working on my own documentary with the ChinaGeeks team. Some of you even gave me money (but we spent it all already, and need more)! Anyway, mine is not the only cool documentary project around. In fact, here are two that are cooler and more professional than my own. At the very least, take the time to check them out, and if you like them, pony up a little cash to show support!

(Note: the text below is copied from the projects’ respective Kickstarter pages).

Never mind about that first one!

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Two years, seven countries and eleven cities later, I know Ai Weiwei. He is the ultimate prankster: simultaneously an international art star and a “dissident artist” in the Western press, with tens of thousands of Chinese netizens following him online and the government keeping almost constant tabs on him.

I have over 200 hours of footage (some of it viewable here) that includes never-before-seen interviews with Weiwei’s family, friends and fellow artists, and chronicles his preparation for major museum shows at the Haus der Kunst and Tate Modern, and a public sculpture work for New York’s Central Park. The two years I spent filming him really mark his rise to international renown, both for his art and his online activism. He is probably the fiercest and loudest internal critic of China, yet somehow he is not in jail. ((This is from her original pitch; obviously, there’s also an update about Ai Weiwei’s current situation.))

Weiwei’s story is extraordinary, but I need your help bringing it to the world.


These both look like really cool projects, so please check them out! I have only copied parts of their pitches here, so check out their Kickstarter pages for the full deal and the rewards you can get for donating.

Note: I am opening the comments in this post so that people can express their support for these cool projects. OFF TOPIC COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED. Please read that sentence a couple times before you hit “Post comment.”

Ai Weiwei Detained

Details are scarce and I have nothing of value to add; here’s the story as written by Tania Branigan and Jonathan Watts for the Guardian:

China’s best-known artist, Ai Weiwei, has been detained in Beijing and police have searched his studio, confiscated computers and questioned assistants.

The 53-year-old remains uncontactable more than 12 hours after officials held him at the capital’s airport.

The whole story is well worth reading. Two thoughts: first, the timing of this was carefully chosen. Ai, apparently, was detained right at the beginning of a nationwide three day holiday.

Second, it lends some more credence to this. Expats who have lived in China for years are beginning to talk about going home. The government, I suspect, doesn’t care, and I’m sure there are others who feel that foreigners who don’t like the way China is governed should leave.