Note: This post has been modified on 14 August 2009 (see the red text)
Recently after I was released from jail, a lot of people frequently asked me what happened and how did I succeed to get rid of such trouble. I was too tired to answer these questions again and again, so I write the following to brief what happened on me. But as you know, some people imposed great pressure on me, so I couldn't tell as much as possible about the case.
My story was quite dramatically interesting. More than a month ago, i.e. late June, some people from Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Provine, published some posts titled such as "Yan Xiaoling (嚴曉玲) much more miserable than Deng Yujiao (鄧玉嬌)"to a lot of forums, claiming a 25-year-old woman Yan Xiaoling
(嚴曉玲) was gang raped and murdered, and alleging the men responsible with ties to some local officials. And then, I received a video in which mother of Yan Xiaoling cried and told the local authorities' attempt to cover up the case of her daughter in Fuzhou dialect from a friend of mine. I uploaded this video to a foreign video-sharing site (www.tinypic.com) without any edits, but I didn't realize that this video would bring me big trouble in the other day. Fuzhou police dismissed such stories, and then arrested about 6 people including me for crime of defamation. Five Mawei police (Mawei is a district of Fuzhou city) came to my company in Xiamen in the afternoon of July 15, and confiscated my computer and took my cell phone away, so I was unable to contact with any of my acquaintances until they took me to the office building of Mawei Police Bureau and put my phone on the desk in front of me so that I could take this phone at any time when the police who interrogated me didn't notice. No one knew that I was seized except my boss who is also a friend of mine. And then, they asked me to lead them to my residential place from where they took away my laptop. A police saw my iPod Touch on bedside and asked what it was. I cheated them that it was just an ordinary MP4 player rather than a memory device, so he didn't take it away. The police never thought this small device would become a powerful weapon.
However, I successfully made the whole world know where I was hours later. It was about 5:00am of July 16 and they had interrogated for several hours, so the police were quite tired. The police sitting opposite me felt asleep and the other one sitting behind me played games on computer so engrossed that he was unable to pay attention on me. I quickly and quietly took my phone and sent messages announcing that I had been arrested by Mawei police to Twitter in English via a twitter's mobile web interface (www.dabr.co.uk). The messages were quickly translated back to Chinese by a Chinese user dupola and crazily retweeted by other users, and this drive also attracted international attention. With a certain popularity in Chinese blogger sphere and Twitter, the news that I was detained was quickly spread to everywhere on the Internet. Interestingly, I also had enough time to read paragraphs of an e-book with my phone until a police realized that the phone was in my hands. He grabbed the phone from my hands, but it was useless, too late.
Hours later, I was sent to the Second Detention Center of Fuzhou where I have spent a total of 16 days. And then, I didn't know what happen out of the detention center at all, because the mails . After release, I began to know some friends of mine had organized kinds of campaigns to rescue me from some reports (1, 2). Mr. Hu Yong (胡泳), associate professor in journalism from Peking University wrote an article on South Metropolitan Daily, the most liberal newspaper in China, to defend the bloggers involved in this case. A prominent blogger and independent political commenter Michael Anti (安替) sent the first postcard and book to me, and then another well-known blogger based in Guangzhou Wen Yunchao (北風) initiated a movement called "One person one postcard, calling Guo Baofeng back for dinner", calling for netizens to send postcards bearing words with "Guo Baofeng, your mother is calling you home for dinner" borrowed from an Internet speculation "Jia Junpeng, your mother is calling you home for dinner" to me. A twitter user (ID: digitalboy) based in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, even made a banner on his web store (www.geekcook.org) to support me and promised that he would send a T-shirt free of charge to anyone who had sent a postcard to me if he/she could send him a photo of this postcard as a proof. This movement was quite effective and hundreds of postcards flooded to the detention center, resulting in huge public opinion pressure on Mawei police. Great public anger finally forced them to release me. It's worth to mention that the objects of postcard campaign were then expanded further to other prisoners of conscience, like Xu Zhiyong, Tan Zuoren, Huang Qi and Hu Jia, etc.(see the spreadsheet).
During these days when I was detained in the detention center, my younger sister Guo Lihua (郭利華), an undergraduate student from Xiamen University, played the key role in rescue of me. After she was told that I had been detained by Mawei police, she went to my residential place and took the name card book and iPod Touch. She sent messages to my journalist friends and friends from Twitter according to the information of name cards, telling them the news of me. With the help from my friends on Twitter (IDs: xmarden and daxa), she was told how to set up an account on Twitter as well as bank account and Paypal’s clone Alipay account for fundraising to hire a lawyer for me. She also used my iPod Touch to notify my friends from a QQ group from where she collected almost a half of donation. When I asked her how she informed my friends without knowing the password, she said the QQ app on iPod Touch memorized the password so she could automatically login and keep in touch with my friends. A Fuzhou-based friend of mine from this QQ group provided my sister great support when she went to Fuzhou to rescue me.
Finally a miracle happened on this magic land. After 16 days of detention, I was released by Mawei police. This result is desired by all people who paid attention to this case and seen as a triumph of netizens and public opinion. But what lesson can be learned from my experience? I think the most important factor is strong command of the use of Internet, especially Twitter and modern tools for communications. Can you image that if I was not an Internet user familiar with kinds of applications, or if there was no a smart phone like Blackberry 8700 or Twitter didn't exist or its API down at that time? The result must have been quite different with now, I think. That is to say, I used Twitter to save myself and this phenomenon deserves to be discussed. Twitter is a great invention, making communications easier and much more rapid than any conventional means. For example, after I sent the SOS message and refreshed the webpage in a shorted moment, I saw the screen of my phone was full of tweets both in Chinese and English about me, making me feel confident at that moment. A Canadian friend feng37 whose real name is John Kennedy sent a direct message in the first instance saying that someone had made phone called to the lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan who defended another blogger You Jingyou, a friend of mine, involved in the same case. Moreover, all kinds of campaigns heavily relied on Twitter and all people this article mentioned have Twitter accounts. In most of time, twitter is for records of life streams, but it has been more and more used in fields related to politics, such as Iran election. In my case, it was also served as tool saving myself. Some people asked me that why not text messages to your friends or called them since I had held your phone. The reason was simple: I should not make my friends at high risk or get involved and it was bedtime. Certainly, the occasional factor is the sleeping and game playing police who created opportunity for me to touch my phone. If not, I didn't have any chance to send messages to Twitter. I was lucky enough, because I failed to send more messages to Twitter after sending the first two messages. I thought there was signal intervention. Twitter encountered DDoS attack days ago, making nearly all API fail. There must have no such interesting stories if this condition occurred in July 16.
Twitter not only saved me, but also pushed me to the national stage even international. My name was widely known across the country, and appeared in lots of English reports (1, 2, 3, 4). Searching the tag #Amoiist on Twitter, I witness the great power of Twitter. Who will be the next lucky guy benefit from Twitter?