Liu disappeared on November 7. The following day, security officials came to her house, which she shares with her 80-year-old grandmother, and confiscated Liu’s computer, several books, and other personal belongings. Officials told her family that Liu was being investigated for “participating in an illegal organization.” Authorities have not offered her family any further explanation as to her whereabouts.
Liu, 22, is a fourth-year student in the psychology department at Beijing Teacher’s University. Using the pseudonym Buxiugang Laoshu (Stainless Steel Mouse), she wrote several online essays criticizing the Chinese government.
In one essay, Liu wrote that, “My ideals are the ideals of an open society… In my view, freedom does not just include external freedom, but freedom within our hearts and minds.” In another essay, Liu called on Chinese citizens to stop reading official news and to read only “reactionary” materials. She also wrote in support of Huang Qi and Yang Zili, Web site publishers who have been arrested and charged with subversion.
Liu had expressed fears of being arrested and said that school authorities had called her in for questioning several times prior to her disappearance, according to online accounts written by her friends and acquaintances.
Liu’s arrest became a rallying point for Chinese Internet users worldwide, and in December her supporters created a Web site (http://220.127.116.11) and launched a global petition demanding her release. By year’s end, the petition had gathered more than 700 signatures from inside and outside China.
Liu’s disappearance came one day before the opening of the 16th Communist Party Congress. During the run-up to the congress, Chinese authorities escalated a crackdown on free expression by arresting government critics, closing Web sites, and tightening already stringent control over the official media.