I’d heard about the stainless steel mouse for a while now, but didn’t know any details beyond she’s been arrested and imprisoned for “cyber-dissidence”. International Herald Tribune interviewed her a couple of days ago, which brings the personal reality of repression in China out in ways that standardised reporting of it fail to do. The whole article exposes how easy it is to fall foul of China’s censors, and is an especially good read at the moment with the increased censorship of on-line liberties during the current Hu/Wen/Jiang factional battle.
The restaurant in the fashionable Qianhai district is almost empty, courtesy of the afternoon rains, though a small young woman is sitting on an upstairs sofa, slightly uncomfortable in her chic surroundings. With her oval glasses, shy demeanor and slightly hunched posture, Liu Di looks like a bookworm.
What she does not look like is a threat to anything, certainly not the Chinese government. Yet the government has already imprisoned her for a year. And in recent months, during sensitive dates on the political calendar, officials have posted security officers outside the Beijing apartment she shares with her grandmother.
“They think I’m a dangerous figure,” said Liu, 23, giggling slightly at the thought as she picked at a Thai rice dish.
It is Liu’s other identity that has made her a target of the Communist Party. In the cyberspace of China’s burgeoning Internet, she is Stainless Steel Mouse, an online dissident whose incarceration over her writings attracted international attention from human rights groups that demanded, and eventually helped win, her release.