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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 11°C

Chinese blogger released after six months' police detention

Ran Yunfei was detained in February after calling on Chinese people to start their own version of an Arab Spring.

A CHINESE BLOGGER and writer who was detained by police earlier this year and charged with inciting subversion has been released after nearly six months, his wife has confirmed.

Ran Yunfei was among the first to be detained amid the government’s expansive crackdown on dissent. He returned to his home in Chengdu, the capital of the south-western Sichuan province, on Tuesday night.

His wife declined to elaborate, indicating that Ran was probably restricted from speaking to the media.

“Yes, he has returned, but it’s not convenient right now to accept interviews,” she added.

Ran was an uncompromising voice for free speech before he was detained in late February, following anonymous online calls for China to imitate the uprisings sweeping through north Africa and the Middle East.

Dozens of activists, lawyers and bloggers were questioned, detained or disappeared in the crackdown, including the activist artist Ai Weiwei and the rights lawyer Teng Biao, who were later released without criminal charges.

In late March, a court in Chengdu charged Ran with inciting subversion of state power, but prosecutors recently sent the case back to police, his friend Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent rights lawyer who spoke briefly to the blogger on Wednesday, said.

Pu said Ran was released into “residential surveillance” for a six-month period, under which he is not allowed to leave home or meet people without permission and may not speak publicly.

But Pu welcomed Ran’s release as a sign the crackdown could be easing. “Exercising control over these people showed the authorities’ fear of the democratic revolutions in the northern Africa,” he said.

“Now that they have been released, it could mean that this wave of social control is slowly loosening or gradually receding.”

Ran was a presence online for more than a decade. He frequently criticised government policies and called for tolerance of dissenting views.

When domestic websites would no longer carry his outspoken views, he moved his blogs and Twitter posts to sites outside China, and many of his readers followed him, circumventing a national firewall to read his material.

The writer’s release comes at a time when other previously detained high-profile dissidents and activists have taken small steps to emerge from silence.

Ai has resumed posting on Twitter, calling this week for the release of the internet activist Wang Lihong, who is set to stand trial on Friday.

Associated Foreign Press