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No Laughing Matter: Parody Tweet Leads to a Detention in China

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Austin Ramzy
Time
Nov 22, 2012

As jokes go, it was hardly funny. Ahead of China’s 18th Communist Party Congress, which saw the top leadership positions transfer for the first time in a decade, Beijing investment banker Zhai Xiaobing tweeted a spoiler of an imaginary film he called Final Destination 6. A great hall will collapse, and out of the 2,000 people inside, just seven will live, but the survivors will begin to mysteriously die off, he tweeted on Nov. 5 under his handle @stariver. “Is it a game of God, or the wrath of Death? How will 18, the mysterious number, unlock the gate of Hell?” he wrote. “Premieres globally on November the 8th.”

The tweet combined the plots of the Final Destination teen horror films with the Party Congress, which started on Nov. 8 and culminated with the announcement of a new seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top governing body. Zhai’s friends recognized his message as a parody. Beijing police, who were in the midst of an extensive security crackdown ahead of the Party Congress, didn’t see the humor. The local authorities had forced prominent dissidents out of town, restricted sales of knives, Ping-Pong balls (on which subversive messages could be written) and remote-control model aircraft and ordered taxi drivers to remove window handles. So jokes about the Communist Party’s leadership dying in a disaster were out. Zhai, 36, who studied ancient Chinese literature at Peking University, was detained Nov. 7 by police in Miyun, a Beijing suburb, on suspicion of spreading false terrorist information, according to friends.

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This article was posted: Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 5:20 am





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