Concerns for Imprisoned Blogger Program-think’s Wife Bei Zhenying After Twitter Account’s Deletion

As of June 7, the Twitter account belonging to Bei Zhenying, wife of well-known blogger program-think (whose real name is Ruan Xiaohuan), appears to have been deleted. The abrupt deletion of her relatively new account @ruanxiaohu32309, coming so soon after the politically sensitive June 4 anniversary and the news of her husband’s seven-year prison sentence for his online writings, has caused widespread concern for Ms. Bei’s safety among human rights organizations and other observers. Several days ago, the human rights organization Weiquanwang (维权网, Wéiquánwǎng) reported that in early June, Ms. Bei was detained by the Shanghai police and later released, but because the police confiscated her mobile phone, she is temporarily incommunicado.

Independent media outlet NGOCN International tweeted an update with more detail:

@ngocneng: Our investigations confirm that the Twitter account of Ms. Bei, Ruan Xiaohuan’s wife (@ruanxiaohu32309) has been deleted and no longer exists on the platform. Radio Free Asia special correspondent Su Yutong (@Suyutong) tweeted that Ms. Bei lost contact with the outside world on May 31. On June 2, Su tweeted that Ms. Bei is currently safe, but does not have a mobile phone and cannot communicate with the outside world. At present, we are temporarily unable to establish contact with Ms. Bei. #Program-think (#编程随想) [Chinese]

During the brief time that her Twitter account was active, Ms. Bei posted updates about her husband’s imprisonment and appealed to the public to continue paying attention to his court case and pending appeal. In March, court documents leaked online revealed that on February 10, 2023—nearly two years after his initial detention—Ruan Xiaohuan had been sentenced to seven years in prison, two years deprivation of political rights, and a fine of 20,000 yuan for “inciting subversion of state power.” The charges were based on his anonymous online writings, published under the name “program-think,” that covered a broad range of topics such as programming, online security, GFW circumvention, history, philosophy, and politics. During the dozen years that he was publishing his writings on overseas platforms such as Blogspot and Github, Ms. Bei was completely unaware that her husband—an IT specialist who served as chief engineer for the information security system used in the 2008 Beijing Olympics—had a separate online identity as the legendary blogger “program-think.” The harsh sentence meted out to Ruan, which he is planning to appeal, was condemned by PEN America and PEN International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders, and many other human rights groups and international organizations.

CDT editors have collected and translated some recent comments by Twitter users in response to the deletion of Ms. Bei’s Twitter account:

susan35765071:If they’ve got her mobile phone, it’d be easy for them to delete her account!

nanpoiszhoujie:You can imagine the combination of threats and promises they’re using: “If you keep blabbing, what do you think will happen to your husband? But if you shut up, don’t you think he’ll be better off?”

polezxy:Ms. Bei’s account has disappeared, so it’s likely she’s been detained, too. Terrifying.

Bruce60093994:They probably have her in custody.

Certain-Engineering4:She dropped out of contact a few days ago, so it’s not surprising that her account’s been deleted.

j0723_123:She’s obviously been threatened.

NomadThink94:I hope Ms. Bei and Mr. Ruan can regain their freedom soon.

theLindyEffect: I really liked the interview that Li Yuan did with her on the “I Don’t Understand” Podcast (不明白播客, Bu mingbai boke). Ms. Bei is logical and articulate, she’s educated herself about the law, and is using the court of public opinion to help save her husband. She’s also an outstanding person. Those two DINKS are really soulmates. [Chinese]

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