A group of volunteers in China who worked to prevent digital records of the coronavirus outbreak from being scrubbed by censors are now targets of a crackdown.
Cai Wei, a Beijing-based man who participated in one such project on GitHub, the software development website, was arrested together with his girlfriend by Beijing police on April 19.
The couple were accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a commonly used charge against dissidents in China, according to Chen Kun, the brother of Chen Mei, another volunteer involved with the project.
[Chen Mei has been missing since that same day. On April 24, the couple’s families received a police notice that informed them of the charge, and said the two have been put under “residential surveillance at a designated place.” There is still no information about Chen Mei, said his brother.
It is unclear whether the arrest of the couple and the disappearance of Chen are directly linked to their GitHub project, named “Terminus2049.” The Beijing police could not be reached for comment.
The project, named after a planet in Isaac Asimov’s series Foundation, has been preserving censored news stories, videos, and articles from individuals shared on messaging apps like WeChat since January 2018. The purpose of the project was to “encourage the public to resist ‘404,’” referring to the error message displayed when a webpage has been deleted or banned by authorities, according to a 2018 post (link in Chinese) on Terminus2049.