Rebel Pepper in Peril

caption: Rebel Pepper, come out and draw your cartoons. Photo courtesy of  twitter account 巴丢草 @badiucao

caption: Rebel Pepper, come out and draw your cartoons. Courtesy of twitter account 巴丢草

On 16 October, around 11pm (Beijing time) at night, the Chinese cartoonist with his pseudonym of Rebel Pepper was detained by security police for disrupting social order without stating further detailed reasons.  It is speculated that the detention might be based on the new regulations of spreading rumor on the Internet that Rebel Pepper forwarded a message about a baby starving to death during the Yuyao Flood which was later said was untrue.

In an old news about Rebel Pepper on CNN in March 2012, Rebel Pepper, whose real name is WANG Liming expressed his feeling about  being a political cartoonist in China.

“I’m a news junkie who loves drawing, and my advertising background trained me well to work under tight deadlines,” he said.

I do this out of passion — and I don’t think you’ll see many people join the few of us anytime soon because of all the limits and risks.

“Sometimes my cartoons give me a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “But what I really want is to wake up my fellow countrymen by injecting a sense of civil society in their minds. China will change one day and I hope my work will help reduce the number of brainwashed citizens in the meantime.”

This kind of lofty goal has already brought Wang a harsh reality check. After he created cartoons last year for a group of independent candidates who defied government warnings to run for seats in local legislatures, he says state security agents showed up at his door — twice.

“I know their bottom line,” he said. “If you draw mostly as a hobby, they leave you alone. But if you draw to rally people around a political cause, you’re crossing the line.”

One Man One Vote Change China, courtesy of Rebel Pepper

One Man One Vote Change China, courtesy of Rebel Pepper

Recounting his initial fear of official reprisals, Wang says he’s since moved on and now feels undeterred by the potential consequences of his work — and Pandaman hasn’t prompted another “Pandamen” visit, yet.

“Getting such visits — it’s like how a virgin feels about having sex,” he deadpanned. “You’re scared before the first time, but after that you’re just not nervous anymore.”

Until the afternoon of Oct 17, Rebel Pepper is still under detention in Beijing, his girl friend is allowed to send him food but not to meet him.

Many Chinese netizens, from artist AI Weiwei, human rights activist HU Jia,  to many others, have expressed their support to Rebel Pepper and wished that he will be back home soon. Today on Sina Weibo,

//@贺卫方:【风声鹤唳】关键的问题在于,他用漫画揭露社会弊端,不仅无罪,反而有功!//@于建嵘: 漫画家如果没有了批评和讽刺现实的表现力,他一定不是一个真正的漫画家,只能是画海报搞宣传的。希望辣椒平安,因为他是一位真正的漫画家。

HE Weifang ( Law Professor who has been advocating legal reform for years): The key issue is, he uses his cartoons to expose social problems, he is not only innocent, instead he deserves our compliments since he is contributing to the society.

YU Jianrong (Chinese sociologist): cartoonists are not real satirists if they do not possess the expressionism of  criticizing and satirizing the reality, they are only propaganda workers. I hope Rebel Pepper is safe and he is a true cartoonist.

latest update: about 10pm (Beijing time) today, Rebel Pepper was released out of detention and back home.

Cartoon about Yuyao flood protests, courtesy of Rebel Pepper

Cartoon about Yuyao flood protests, courtesy of Rebel Pepper

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