An influential Chinese blogger, who used to give tips on how to safely circumvent China's Great Firewall of internet censorship and resist the increasingly totalitarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party on his blog, suddenly disappeared from the internet, CNN reported.
China's freewheeling blog, Program Think suddenly went silent in 2021. Its Twitter and GitHub account went dormant. The author had promised followers never to stay inactive for more than 14 days. Many feared the blogger had been struck by an accident or illness, or tracked down and detained by authorities.
And their fear turned into reality when Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate Court on February 10, this year, sentenced blogger Ruan Xiaohuan against China's strict internet restriction.
In the verdict, the court ruled that Ruan had "long harboured dissatisfaction" with China's political system and social governance, reported CNN.
"Since June 2009, (Ruan) has used his computer to write more than a hundred seditious articles that spread rumours and slander, attack and smear the country's current political system, incite subversion of state power, and intent to overthrow the socialist system," the court said in its verdict.
It added that the articles, published on overseas platforms, attracted "a large number of internet users to read, comment and share, causing pernicious consequences."
But the court documents did not mention the name of Ruan's blog, or provide details on the content it deemed subversive.
The court tried to hide the verdict from the public eye and asked Ruan's wife to sign the document, which she refused.
Last month, Ruan's wife, surnamed Bei appointed two of China's most prominent human rights lawyers, Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun, as Ruan's defence attorneys for his appeal, CNN reported.
But the Shanghai High People's Court turned them away, claiming Ruan had asked for legal assistance and the state had already appointed him two lawyers.
Determined to find out what authorities had withheld from her, Bei learned how to use a VPN, or virtual private network, to bypass China's strict internet restrictions.
She searched for media reports about Chinese bloggers who went missing until she came across a blog with a picture of Rodin's sculpture "The Thinker" as its avatar.
Speaking with CNN, Bei revealed that she had no idea that her husband used to write a blog against the Chinese government.
She learned during police investigations that her husband had posted more than 700 articles on an overseas platform - just as Program Think did.
"It can't be just a coincidence," Bei said.
"I came to realize how much pressure he had been under for such a long time. He was doing all these dangerous things, carrying so much weight on his shoulders all by himself," she said.
The blog started in 2009 and its last post, a long list of book recommendations, was published on May 9 - a day before Ruan was taken away and had his laptop confiscated.
There was also a four-month period, Bei remembered when Ruan was sick and bedridden that coincided with a lull in publishing, as per the report in CNN. (ANI)