A Chinese student at the University of Minnesota who posted tweets critical of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has been arrested and is currently serving a 6-month prison sentence in China.
Luo Daiqing, 20, was arrested when he returned to his home in the Chinese city of Wuhan in July 2019, and has been in prison for multiple months, according to Axios.
Luo reportedly opened a Twitter account during his freshman year studying in the U.S., where he proceeded to tweet more than 40 comments denigrating “a national leader’s image.”
In particular, Daiqing tweeted images of the cartoon character Lawrence Limburger from the cartoon show “Biker Mice From Mars.” The cartoon character is the primary antagonist of the series and bears a resemblance to Xi.
The student’s name is Luo Daiqing, now 20 years old. He was a first-semester freshman in Minnesota when he opened a Twitter account and posted pictures of Lawrence Limburger, a cartoon villain with an uncanny likeness to Xi Jinping: pic.twitter.com/iZbMpL9dWl
— B. Allen-Ebrahimian (@BethanyAllenEbr) January 23, 2020
Luo, who has been imprisoned since he was arrested in July, was sentenced in November 2019. The time he spent in detention was allowed to count towards his time served in the six-month sentence.
This is not the first time cartoon characters resembling Xi have been marked by controversy. In 2018, China banned images of Winnie the Pooh, after memes popularized the comparison of Xi’s likeness to the cartoon bear.
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE, called for Luo’s release in a statement Wednesday night.
“The Chinese Communist Party ought to release Luo Daiqing immediately, and the University of Minnesota ought to give him a full-ride scholarship,” Sasse said. “Don’t forget that the Chinese Communist Party has banned Twitter, so the only people who even saw these tweets were the goons charged with monitoring Chinese citizens while they’re enjoying freedom here in the United States.”
“This is what ruthless and paranoid totalitarianism looks like,” he continued.
Sasse noted that Twitter is blocked in China. The Chinese government still monitors the social media platform to identify Chinese users who criticize the Xi or other facets of the Chinese government.
Sasse has previously been outspoken about censorship issues in China. During a public relations backlash involving the NBA and Chinese broadcasters, Sasse accused NBA player Lebron James of “parroting communist propaganda,” on China’s behalf.
At the time, James had avoided questions about an ongoing incident where an NBA team’s general manager tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters who have resisted efforts by the Chinese government to expand its influence over the semi-autonomous city.