An anonymous Chinese blogger, who goes by the pseudonym of ‘Program Think’, has been missing for the past two weeks. The blogger used to expose the corruption and concealed wealth of top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members.
Although ‘Program Think’ was able to evade arrest for over 12 years, Radio Free Asia (RFA) claimed that the Chinese authorities have detained the blogger. RFA added that he would be subjected to rigorous interrogation until they solicit a confession from him. On May 24, a comment on his blog post said that his family had been seeking help. “Last week, he went on a business trip to a big city in East China and lost contact with us the next day. There were no unusual messages before he lost contact,” the comment warned.
“It has been almost a week now. At first, I was not sure if something happened, or if there was an accident, I didn’t call the police. Last night, the police gave us an official response (to our missing person’s report), saying that they were processing his case, but … without giving any information on the progress of their investigation,” the comment further added. As per Twitter account @GFWfrog, ‘Program-Think’ was detained earlier in May and currently undergoing ‘brutal interrogation’. It claimed that the last blog post dated May 9 was scheduled by the blogger in advance.
While speaking to Radio Free Asia, an informant named Xu said, “Recently, through my own credible sources, I learned that they have detained Program-Think, and are putting him through harsh interrogation. I can’t accept the persecution of a person of such conscience and outstanding ability … so I have to make this information public despite the risks”. Program-Think has been at the helm of exposing the Chinese Communist Party through anti-brainwashing campaigns. One of his notable works was exposing the hidden wealth following the 2016 Panama Papers’ leak.
Xu said, “I think Program-Think had a bigger impact than anyone on the Chinese internet. Particularly his posts laying out very complete evidence to refute [government] propaganda. He would convert CCP supporters. He is a hero, and totally irreplaceable.” According to Zhou Fengsuo of Humanitarian China NGO, several bloggers learnt to circumvent the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance through the blog of Program-Think. Interestingly, his blog was chosen by Deutsche Welle (DW) for the Best of Blogs awards in 2013.
In his own words, Program-Think had earlier said that he never wanted to write political content and wanted to share information about programming. However, when the blog became popular, he wrote about ways to evade government censorship, political analysis, and information security tips, etc. In 2019, he wrote a blog post titled, ‘Why the Authorities Can’t Catch Me.” For his followers, Program-Think has not been less than a ‘hero’ or a ‘legend.’ Many independent bloggers had to face persecution at the hands of the Chinese authorities. Some stopped posting while others disappeared forever.
Not just blogger ‘Program Think’: Saga of disappearances, including that of Jack Ma by CCP in China
Last year, Jack Ma had gone on a tirade against China’s current banking system, the financial regulatory structure of the Communist-ruled country, and how it was unsuitable for his fintech giant, Ant group. Ma’s critical remarks for the Communist regime terminated the planned IPO of his fintech giant Ant Group, just two days before it was scheduled to begin trading.
Following his disparaging remarks for the Chinese regulatory system, Ma, who has rarely shied away from the public glare, disappeared for almost three months, giving rise to a host of speculations about his whereabouts and well-being. He re-emerged last month with a 50-second video appearance. Earlier, reports had emerged that Jack Ma has been ’embracing supervision’ at an unknown location.
Ma is not the only prominent personality to have raised the hackles of the Chinese Communist Party by raising unpopular opinions. Many other billionaires too, had made critical remarks of the Party and had similarly disappeared from the public eye for a few months. Be it Chinese businessman and investor Guo Guangchang or Chinese actor Fan Bingbing, Former Interpol chief Meng Hongwei, or Ex-real estate tycoon Ren Zhiqiang—all had to bear the brunt for not conforming to the CCP directives.