Man in China detained after posting meme of dog wearing police hat to protest against Covid-19 restrictions

The meme was posted on social media where it was seen by members of a chat group.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A Chinese man was detained for nine days for allegedly insulting police after posting a meme of a dog wearing a police hat on social media.

The man, surnamed Li, posted the meme in a chat group on WeChat after expressing his anger over strict coronavirus control measures in Qingtongxia, a city in the northwestern Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

Local police told the Chutian Metropolis News that Li's action was the crime of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," a broad and vaguely worded law that is often used to silence any criticism of the authorities.

"The current coronavirus situation is serious. This resident's behaviour is an insult to the work of the police," an officer was quoted as saying.

When a person in the group of 300 members asked Li to withdraw the meme, he refused, the report said. He was reportedly informed on by another local resident leading to his detention late last month.

So far Qingtongxia has not reported any confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the latest round of the pandemic, while the nearby city of Wuzhong reported nine cases last month.

However, the city has boosted its efforts in preventing the virus' spread, with all police in Qingtongxia cancelling their holidays over the past two weeks.

Li said the control measures in his community were too tight and he hoped to be a volunteer so that he could go about his business freely.

"Although it is a cartoon picture, in our traditional culture, using a dog to refer to a group of people is obviously humiliating," the police officer told the newspaper.

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The incident has been the focus of online discussion, with a majority of people disagreeing with the police's actions.

"I don't think it insults the police," wrote one person on Weibo. "If so, Paw Patrol (the popular American cartoon series) will be heavily punished."

"The police misused their power. What a sensitive heart they have," another person wrote. Li is not the first one in China being detained for criticising police or government officials.

In 2017, a man in Hebei was detained for 15 days after he wrote on Weibo: "I wish cars on the road hit the traffic police officers and kill them as I hate the law."

In 2019, a Shandong woman was put under detention for calling urban administration officials "Japanese invaders" on Douyin because they cleared the street and stopped her from occupying a road area to sell goods.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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