Last weekend, while social media platforms across China were flooded with posts mourning the death of Yuan Longping, lauded as China’s “father of hybrid rice,” some dissident voices did not escape from the Chinese regime’s clutches.
China’s top agricultural expert Yuan, who is praised in state media for developing the world’s first high-yield hybrid rice strain, died of organ failure in a hospital in the southern city of Changsha on May 22. He was 91.
Yuan’s death prompted a spate of coverage in state media, and China’s social media platforms were also overwhelmed by tributes. But at least five people were arrested in a day for posting remarks against Yuan on China’s social media platforms. In addition, China’s Twitter-like Weibo shut down 64 accounts for “insulting comments,” according to an official account.
On May 22, Beijing authorities announced that a netizen, who goes by the user name “nanwanshanxia,” was detained due to disrespectful comments posted in a WeChat group.
An 18-year-old man surnamed Jia, who posted three critical comments on Weibo at around 2 p.m. and then deleted them 8 minutes later, was arrested by police officers in the eastern Rizhao city of Shandong Province, later that day.
Police in the port city of Tianjin in northern China said a 38-year-old man surnamed Li was detained for posting “insulting remarks” on his WeChat Moments.
Later, police from the port city of Xiamen in the southeast and Jiangsu, an eastern province, made similar announcements.
These local authorities alleged that netizens’ comments had caused “bad impacts on the society,” although they weren’t widely circulated since the accounts were shut down soon after.
The statement said there would be “no tolerance” for voices criticizing national “heroes and martyrs,” and the authorities would deal severely with those comments.
Since May 2018, a new law that criminalizes anyone deemed to have defamed the “reputation and honor” of the ruling party’s canon of heroes and martyrs in violation of public security has come into effect. Furthermore, the enactment of the law bans questioning the narrative about the revolutionary martyrs or their heroic deeds or spirits.
Last year, a 19-year-old Chinese citizen was charged with defaming “heroes and martyrs” by Chinese police for questioning the death toll during the June 2020 China-India border clash on social media platforms.
According to the state media China Daily, the agriculture scientist Yuan had been in the hospital since March after falling at a research base in Sanya city of southern Hainan Province. He was transferred to a hospital in Changsha in April.