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Chinese Twitter joke ends in jail

A Chinese blogger has been arrested after posting a joke on Twitter about the pivotal Communist Party congress.

China been especially sensitive to any perceived dissent about the party meeting, which closed last week after ushering in a new generation of leaders. Ahead of the event, police sent activists out of Beijing and rounded up the hundreds of people who tried to draw the attention of central authorities to their grievances against local governments.

Zhai Xiaobing's November 5 tweet suggested the next movie in the "Final Destination" horror series would be about the Great Hall of the People collapsing on party delegates.

The tweet said, "An earthshaking debut will be seen at the global premiere on November 8!" The weeklong congress began November 8.

After Zhai's Twitter account fell silent for a few days, Liu Yanping, a friend, grew worried and discovered police had taken Zhai away on November 7 and seized his computer.

A police spokesman said Zhai was being investigated for "spreading terrorist information." The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Zhai's supporters call the allegation absurd and more than 400 people have signed an online petition calling on police to release him - and to have more of a sense of humour.

"I was very shocked when I realised what happened to him. I've consulted a few lawyers and I feel that it's clear his Twitter joke does not amount to spreading terrorist information," Liu said. "It's just preposterous."

The online petition, written by outspoken blogger and free speech advocate Wen Yunchao, urges authorities to lighten up.

"We solemnly request that Beijing police find a little sense of humour and not make a big deal out of nothing," the letter said. "In particular, do not destroy the goodwill and anticipation the public has for the new office holders after the 18th party congress by limiting and persecuting an ordinary citizen's normal freedom of speech in such a groundless fashion."

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