Around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 19, 2017, Chinese dissident writer Li Xuewen, 40, was approached and arrested by two plainclothes police officers at the Guangzhou railway station, just as he was exiting the metro there. Li was told on the spot that he was on the wanted list of China’s Ministry of Public Security for “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” Li was then taken into custody and sent to the Xinhui detention center.
According to a statement later released by Li’s lawyer, Ge Yongxi, Li was questioned repeatedly for his participation in a seaside memorial held on July 19, 2017, in Xinhui, an urban district that, like the metropolis Guangzhou, is in southeastern China’s Guangdong Province. The memorial sought to commemorate Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died on July 13 due to a prolonged illness he had developed in prison. Participants in the memorial were later targeted by the Chinese regime and all were heavily prosecuted, as the regime sees any commemoration of activists like Liu Xiaobo as an act of political dissent.
In his lawyer’s statement, Li suspects that he was identified at the metro station by facial recognition cameras installed by Guangzhou authorities. If true, this would be one of the first incidents in which the Chinese regime has caught a political dissident using facial recognition technology.
The arrest of Li Xuewen seems to confirm predictions that the regime is bringing an ‘Orwellian nightmare’ and ‘digitized totalitarianism’ to China.