UPDATED: 07/06/18 at 10:50 a.m.
A woman in Shanghai was incommunicado on Thursday after uniformed men visited her apartment on the same day that she streamed live video of herself splashing ink on a poster of Chinese president Xi Jinping to social media.
Dong Yaoqiong, who hails from the central province of Hunan and uses the Twitter handle @feefeefly, streamed the live video of herself splashing ink on the ruling Chinese Communist Party propaganda poster in protest at “authoritarian tyranny.”
“I am in the Lujiazui district of Shanghai right now, and that’s the Haihang building just behind me,” Dong says in the video, which was shot on Wednesday morning ahead of the commuter rush-hour. “It’s pretty early, and I think everyone is still on their way to work,” she says.
“There is a portrait of Xi Jinping behind me,” she says. “What I want to say is that I am using my real name to oppose Xi Jinping’s tyranny and dictatorship, and the oppressive brain control perpetrated on me by the Chinese Communist Party.”
Dong then throws the ink across Xi’s image on the poster and shouts her slogans again.
She then calls on the authorities to detain her and investigate her allegations of “brain control.”
Later that day, a tweet was posted to the same account reporting that “there are people, a bunch of people in uniform outside my door right now,” along with a photo snapped through the spyhole of a man in uniform outside.
“I am innocent. It is the organization and people who have harmed me who are the guilty parties,” the tweet said.
Dong declined to be interviewed when contacted by RFA via her Twitter account on Wednesday. Soon after, her Twitter account and the video were removed from Twitter.
Earlier tweets had indicated that she had been under surveillance by the authorities for around a year.
Guangdong-based rights activist Jia Pin said Dong’s actions constituted a radical protest against China’s ubiquitous “stability maintenance” regime, which polices public protest and peaceful critics of the government.
He said Dong may have been targeted for “brain control” using drugs, while other social media users speculated that she may have been targeted by other methods, including microwave radiation and sounds.
“In the video, this woman says that she has been targeted with particular tactics by the stability maintenance system,” Jia said. “She called it persecution by brain control.”
“This is extremely likely to be true; the stability maintenance system does like to employ such methods,” he said.
Jia said he had heard of large numbers of fellow activists who had been force-fed medication or abused with technological devices, causing “direct harm.”
“These methods of brain control make people extremely anxious and cause insomnia, as well as unable to control their own thoughts,” he said. “I think that’s the chief reason why this woman splashed ink [on the poster].”
“To put it more bluntly, the responsibility doesn’t rest with her; it rests with the state security police at a local level, and the stability maintenance people,” he said.
Activist Wu Bin, known by his online nickname Xiucai Jianghu, commented via social media: “In some countries, you can get away with dragging an effigy of your national leader through the streets and kicking its butt, but in some countries, you can be arrested just for chucking some ink on a street poster of your head of state.”
Wu told RFA on Thursday that Dong’s broadcast had been highly courageous.
“China’s not like a lot of other countries in the world; in the U.S., there are protests against Trump in the streets and nothing bad happens,” he said. “But there’s a feeling of being gagged in China right now, and nobody dares to speak out because the persecution is intense.”
“Now, one person has suddenly stood up … and said what we all wanted to say; done what we all wanted to do, and now she has been detained, we should support her by speaking out on her behalf,” Wu said.
Dong’s allegations come as the United States investigates medical findings that at least 24 of its embassy and consular staff, including at least one in China, have suffered symptoms similar to “minor traumatic brain injury.”
The U.S. has set up a task force to identify and treat affected personnel and their family members, and withdrew some diplomatic personnel from China earlier this week, pending further investigation of a possible “sonic attack.”
Meanwhile, Dong’s protest appeared to have spawned a copy-cat protest in the southern province of Guangdong on Thursday, according to a photo uploaded to social media of a mud-splattered hoarding featuring Xi Jinping.
Germany-based activist Liao Yiwu said there are parallels with the “three heroes” of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests who made world headlines when they splattered the portrait of late supreme leader Mao Zedong, which overlooks the square, with red paint.
Yu Zhijian, Lu Decheng and Yu Dongyue were subjected to lengthy jail terms and harsh treatment, leaving former journalist and art critic Yu Dongyue with neurological impairment following repeated beatings in prison. Yu Zhijian passed away on March 30, 2017, while Lu Decheng and Yu Dongue are now living in the U.S. and Canada.
“I think the significance of her action is is equal to that of the three heroes,” Liao told RFA on Thursday. “I think [the defacing of Mao’s portrait] was the most shocking instance of performance art since [communist rule began in] 1949.”
Beijing-based artist Ji Feng said he expects to see a number of copy-cat actions.
“Before, when people would [mock Xi Jinping], it would be in a roundabout kind of way, not like what she did,” Ji said. “I think she has inspired the younger generation; she has already acquired the status of an icon.”
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