The plight of a Chinese woman who recently briefly found her voice on Twitter only to be silenced again at once shows the extent of control the country’s authorities exert over their population, and the harm that constant surveillance can inflict on an individual.
Dong Yaoqiong’s troubles started in July 2018, when she protested against China’s Communist Party (CCP) by pouring ink on a poster depicting President Xi Jinping and live streamed the whole thing on Twitter. She was working as a real estate agent in Shanghai at the time.
Since then, until this December, she has reportedly been detained on three different occasions, twice in psychiatric hospitals where she was forced to take medication for alleged mental issues.
Declaring “enemies of the state” as mentally unstable and locking them up in hospitals rather than prisons is an old-school communist method which, judging by these reports, still survives in China.
In this way, people accused of thought or speech crime can be punished without being put on trial that could invite further embarrassment for the authorities.
In Dong’s case, the “ruling” in 2018 was that she had “attacked” state leaders and according to western media sources she was administered psychiatric treatment in a hospital in Hunan. After being released in November of last year, Dong was once again detained in a psychiatric institution and medicated, before being released in May.
According to her father, who spoke for the Human Right Network in September, this ordeal affected her personality, turning her from “the lively and cheerful young woman” into one who is “reserved, nervous and despondent.”
Finally, on November 30, Dong decided to return to Twitter with a video that has since been deleted, saying that she is not mentally ill, but is on the verge of a breakdown due to the CCP persecution and surveillance.
— 相林? (@xianglin8964) November 30, 2020
“I decided to tweet now because I’m not afraid of them anymore. If they put me in a (psychiatric) hospital again, no problem; and if I’m stuck there for the rest of my life, then so be it,” she said.
In three comments she also posted on the social network, she accused top Chinese officials of coming after her with the might of the entire state, and said she was previously kept in the hospital for no reason and against her will.
That was the last anyone heard of Dong on Twitter, while Radio Free Asia speculates she has been detained once again.