An outspoken Chinese activist disappeared last month after announcing plans to wear a t-shirt merging the names of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Hitler.
Radio Free Asia reports that friends of Kwon Pyong haven’t heard from the young activist since September 30th. Prior to his sudden disappearance, he had told friends about his plan to walk around in public wearing a shirt reading “Xitler” on October 1st, China’s National Day, which marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
28-year-old Kwon is an ethnic Korean from Yanji, a city in Jilin province very near to the border with North Korea. He is a graduate of Iowa State University in the US and a supporter of human rights and pro-democracy movements in China. He’s also not a fan of China’s ruling party or the country’s president — who he likes to refer to as “Xitler” — as you can see from his past Twitter posts:
— BraveJohnny (@kwonpyong) March 6, 2016
Three major gangs in the world. First one is Xitler, second one is gang with babe face, third one , hmm mafia guy. pic.twitter.com/TYoPpCxDow
— BraveJohnny (@kwonpyong) June 27, 2015
— BraveJohnny (@kwonpyong) July 23, 2015
@crehage I'd like to call him as Xitler . LOL
— BraveJohnny (@kwonpyong) November 30, 2015
In last August, Kwon posted a picture of himself on Twitter in a “Xitler” t-shirt standing in front of a government building.
— BraveJohnny (@kwonpyong) August 29, 2016
Gu Yi, a Chinese student studying abroad in the US, told RFA about the last time that he heard from Kwon on September 30th:
He had been contacting me every day since Sept. 8 to report that he was safe, because he realized he was being followed.
Previously, we didn’t think he would get into big trouble, although he had been called in for a chat with state security police after he sent postcards to detained human rights lawyers.
But then he told me on Sept. 30 that he planned to walk around in that T-shirt. I told him not to do it, but he insisted. “We didn’t think he would run into trouble because he had worn that kind of T-shirt before.
But that same day, I got a text message from him that said ‘ran into trouble.’
RFA contacted the Yanji municipal police department, which confirmed that Kwon was being held by police in his hometown. HFKP contacted the same department, but did not receive confirmation.
The apparent arrest comes just as Xi is consolidating his power and sharpening his image. At a party congress meeting last week, he was named as China’s “core” leader, following in the footsteps of other strong Chinese leaders like Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.
At the same time that he has been gaining new titles, Xi has also been working to make others disappear with propaganda officials warning state media that he doesn’t love it when you call him “Xi Dada” any more. In July, censors even squashed reports that a scientist named a beetle after Xi.
Of course, Xi has never liked being compared to Hitler. Back in May 2015, a Shanghai artist was detained for publishing an image that some speculated depicted the Chinese president as the führer.