A Chinese Twitter user has been arrested, on her wedding day, over a tweet. One week after Paul Chambers lost his appeal in the so-called Twitter joke trial here in the UK, Amnesty International reports that Chinese activist Cheng Jianping has been sentenced to a year of ‘re-education’ after retweeting a joke.
Online activist Cheng tweets as wangyi09. On Monday, she was sentenced to one year of ‘re-education through labour’ for ‘disturbing the social order’. Her crime was to retweet a post by her fiancé Hua Chunhui.
The post read, “Anti-Japanese demonstrations, smashing Japanese products, that was all done years ago by Guo Quan. It’s no new trick. If you really wanted to kick it up a notch, you’d immediately fly to Shanghai to smash the Japanese Expo pavilion.” In her retweet, Cheng added, “Angry youth, charge!” Ten days later, Cheng was arrested — on the day she was due to marry Hua.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, it only emerged this week that she had in fact been arrested, meaning her whereabouts were unknown to her fiancé, family and friends. She was sentenced without trial by police and has been sent to the Shibali River women’s labour camp in Zhengzhou city in Henan Province, where her fiancé says she is on hunger strike. Hua, who tweets as wxhch, has not been detained.
Twitter is officially banned by the People’s Republic of China, but is widely used. Like many banned websites, it’s not hard to access if you know one end of a proxy from another. China boasts the world’s most Internet users — a whopping 384 million people, many using Twitter and local social-networking sites such as QQ and RenRen — as well as the world’s largest number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents.
The Internet has proved useful in organising dissent, despite the authority’s attempts to suppress and censor online opposition. Early this year, China introduced rules that anyone setting up a website had to submit ID documents and meet regulators, while an army of propagandists spreads government ideals on message boards and comments, all the while deleting dissenting messages and monitoring activists.
China isn’t the only regime threatened by the power of the people on the Web. Amnesty also reports that blogger Kareem Amer is still in jail in Egypt, despite completing his prison sentence for ‘inciting strife’ and ‘insulting the President of the Republic’.
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