27 year-old blogger Zhou Shuguang goes by the nom-de-blog "Zola." The tagline of his blog says in English: "You never know what you can do till you try." He seems to be hitting up against the limits of what the Chinese authorities will let him do.
Zola has stirred up controversy by turning himself into a commercial brand while at the same time committing citizen journalism. He has been called many things by many people: The "nailhouse blogger." "Enfant terrible of the Chinese blogosphere." A Chinese journalist-blogger friend of mine calls him "post-modern."
Now Chinese authorities say he is "a potential threat to state security." For that reason, they barred his exit from China to Hong Kong on Sunday. He was on his way to Germany to serve as a judge for Deutsche Welle's Best of the Blogs awards.
I first learned of Zola's detention on Twitter, where he posted live updates about what was happening - which other people in his Twitter network quickly relayed across the Internet. He posted an update on his blog about the situation on Saturday afternoon, telling his readers to follow his Twitter stream for the latest developments. (A Google News search at 4pm Hong Kong time today turned up no mainstream media reports on his situation, which shows how slow the MSM has been to take advantage of the Chinese twittersphere...or they don't consider this news...)
It's unclear exactly what caused Zola to be deemed "a potential threat to state security," but he has been known to push the limits. Last Fall he was detained in Shenyang, roughed up a little, and sent home to Changsha when he tried to investigate protests related to a bizarre pyramid scheme. In June he announced he was going to Beijing to blog the Olympics. Soon thereafter, the police paid him a visit and told him it would be in his interest to stay home in Changsha. Once the Olympics were over he headed back to Beijing where, among other things, he worked with other bloggers to investigate the illegal "black jails."
I just communicated with Zola online. I asked him how he's feeling - he said he's tired but he feels ok, isn't stressed. I expressed surprise. He replied: 还好吧，我反正是玩，没什么压力. Which basically means: "It's ok, I'm just having fun, there's no pressure." I asked him if he has any theories why he has been prevented from leaving the country. He said he's not sure what exactly he did that caused him to be labeled "a potential threat to state security." But he did speculate that the police might be "gathering evidence." What kind of evidence? "Maybe similar evidence as they got from Hu Jia," he answered.
Given what happened to Hu Jia, it's amazing he is not stressed.
(UPDATE 10:50pm HKT: Apologies to Zola for getting his age wrong earlier. It has now been corrected.)
UPDATE, TUESDAY NOV.25TH:
Zola gives a timeline of events.
Global Voices Online: China: Citizen reporter Zuola becomes a potential threat to state security?!
Beijing-based lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan has some legal advice for Zola here.