(Bloomberg) -- A prominent overseas watcher of Chinese protests says police in China are cracking down on some of his million-plus followers on social platform X, as unrest grows over the nation’s economic slowdown.

The X user, who goes by the name “Teacher Li,” wrote in a long post Sunday evening that the Ministry of Public Security had been approaching his followers “one by one” and inviting them for “tea” — a euphemism for interrogation in the Asian country.

“I advise those who are scared, please unfollow me,” he added. By Monday afternoon, his account showed he had 1.4 million followers on the platform that is blocked in China, at least 100,000 less than the day before.

As an Italy-based art student, Li gained international attention in late 2022 when he emerged as a key conduit for people protesting President Xi Jinping’s Covid Zero strategy and trying to get messages past China’s strict internet controls. Since then, his account, @whyyoutouzhele, has served as a hub of protest-related videos and public complaints that he’s gathered online. 

China’s Ministry of Public Security didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. Bloomberg wasn’t able to independently verify Li’s claims, and he didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Gloom over the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy has sparked a spate of public outbursts in recent months. Internet users openly vented their frustrations earlier this year during a $7 trillion market rout, flooding the US Embassy’s account on Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo to skirt censors.

As China’s economy flagged and a post-pandemic boom failed to materialize, protests became more frequent late last year. Some 952 “dissent events” were recorded in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to Freedom House’s China Dissent Monitor project. That was the most of any such period that year. Nearly two thirds were related to labor issues, with another 17% linked to a housing crisis that has wiped wealth from millions.

Teacher Li’s account has captured some of that unrest. On Saturday alone, he posted videos of workers demanding salary payments outside a textile factory in northern Ningxia, and a gathering of employees in front of the government headquarters in Fuxin city, northwestern Liaoning province, regarding allegedly unpaid pensions. 

Overseas aggregators such as Li are necessary because China’s censors can quickly flag and remove politically sensitive content from domestic platforms, including WeChat or Sina Weibo. To get around that, Chinese internet users send content to middlemen to share with an international audience, where it can be viewed within China using virtual private network software. 

Over the weekend, Li wrote that some people who had spoken to the police had been asked whether or not they followed him. He suggested that going forward people should simply bookmark his page or search his handle to read the news.

He added: “I don’t want your life to be impacted only because you wanted to know what’s happening in China.” 

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