The Chinese government might not know exactly who Badiucao is — but it definitely knows his work. When China arrested five feminist activists in 2015, Badiucao’s #freethefive portraits of the women swept the Internet, a graphic rebuke to their imprisonment. It’s a safe bet that the subsequent attack on Badiucao’s Twitter account, the online slander campaign, and the bogus, demeaning website set up in the artist’s name were the Chinese government’s retaliation. Badiucao was targeted with another cyber attack four months later, after his cartoon protesting China’s wholesale jailing of human-rights lawyers was picked up by Amnesty International, CNN and the BBC.
Badiucao — born in Shanghai, now based in Australia — uses the Internet to protest against China’s rulers, but he’s worried that the web portals he needs to get his work into China are diminishing. Though there are still ways for mainland Chinese to circumvent the censors and access Twitter and the China Digital Times, which publishes Badiucau and other dissident Chinese cartoonists, the appointment of a former Chinese government apparatchik as Twitter’s first Chinese regional manager could signal a further closing of China’s informational firewall.