November 05, 2003


BEIJING The "stainless-steel mouse" is her cyber nom de plume. Her name is Liu Di, and in the one picture available, she has a young face and a wide, shy smile. Until the authorities tracked her down a year ago Friday, she was one of the most famous Internet web masters in China.

A third-year psychology student at Beijing Normal University, Ms. Liu formed an artists club, wrote absurdist essays in the style of dissident Eastern-bloc writers of the 1970s, and ran a popular web-posting site. Admirers cite her originality and humor: In one essay Liu ironically suggests all club members go to the streets to sell Marxist literature and preach Lenin's theory, like "real Communists." In another, she suggests everyone tell no lies for 24 hours. In a series of "confessions" she says that China's repressive national-security laws are not good for the security of the nation.

But since Nov. 7, 2002, when plain-clothes police made a secret arrest, Liu has not been heard from. No charges have been filed; her family and friends may not visit her, sources say; and, in a well-known silencing tactic, authorities warn that it will not go well for her if foreign media are informed of her case.

Hmm. A bit late for that. I don't think I care to buy any more Chinese goods (especially, you know, computers and electronics) while this sort of thing goes on, and I suspect a lot of others may feel the same way, which should worry some people.

Perhaps someone should ask these folks, or even these folks, if China is an appropriate supplier.

UPDATE: Reader John Wetherbie suggests that McDonald's should top giving away Chinese-made toys with happy meals, in favor of toys made in the democratic countries of Eastern Europe.

If I were McDonald's, I'd want to do that, if possible.