A man in China was reportedly detained for nine days after sending a meme to a group chat that was deemed offensive to police in an incident that has gone viral on Chinese social media, CNN reported.
The man, identified only by his surname Li, allegedly sent the meme on the Chinese social media platform WeChat, in a group exchange complaining about the local Covid-19 prevention and control measures late last month, according to authorities and state media, the report said.
Police in Qingtongxia city, in Ningxia region, posted a screenshot of Li's text exchange on Chinese social media, but later removed the post.
State-run outlet The Paper published further details of the incident that has provoked consternation in China, with a related hashtag garnering 170 million views.
Many protested Li's punishment, arguing that use of an internet joke was hardly grounds for being detained by police, the CNN report said.
According to The Paper, Li sent a meme showing a dog in a police hat, holding a police badge and pointing at the camera. It's a common image that has been used widely online before, with different variations sometimes including a cat or cartoon character in the police hat.
On October 30, local police received a tip from a member of the public, alleging that Li had sent an image "insulting the image of police", according to The Paper.