BEIJING – China has sentenced a woman to a year in a labor camp for “disrupting social order” by retweeting a satirical message urging Chinese protesters to smash the Japan pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, an international rights group said.
Cheng Jianping, 46, re-posted a message from the social networking site Twitter last month hinting that Chinese protesters should smash the Japan pavilion at the Shanghai Expo and adding on the message “Angry youth, charge!” according to Amnesty International, which condemned the sentence in a statement late Thursday.
Amnesty and Cheng’s fiance said her retweet was meant as satire, mocking anti-Japanese protesters who had grown in number since tensions between the countries increased after a dispute erupted in September over islands claimed by both Japan and China.
“Sentencing someone to a year in a labor camp, without trial, for simply repeating another person’s clearly satirical observation on Twitter demonstrates the level of China’s repression of online expression,” Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi said in a statement.
Cheng’s fiance, Hua Chunhui, said he thought the government reacted the way it did to the tweet was because they are activists. The two had planned to get their marriage license Oct. 28, the same day Cheng was detained.
“My personal opinion is that this sentencing wasn’t about this one statement. The government wants to make an example of us activists,” said Hua, who lives in Wuxi in China’s eastern province of Jiangsu. “The government doesn’t like what we do. We actively communicate with other Chinese activists and celebrated on Twitter Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel prize.”
Hua told The Associated Press that he posted the original tweet because he was mad at all the anti-Japanese protests.
“So I posted that message on Twitter, satirically saying that if they really want to do something big, they should just get on a plane and attack the Japan pavilion at the expo. Of course, that is not possible.“
The Shanghai Expo was a major event treated with great sensitivity by China and any threats against it would have been taken seriously by the government. Authorities pulled out all the stops to make sure it was a success and imposed heavy security to ensure there were no disruptions. More than 70 million people visited it before it closed at the end of October after its six-month run.
Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Twitter is blocked in China, but some human rights activists use it by bypassing government controls.
Hua said his fiance arrived at a labor re-education center in central China’s Henan Province on Wednesday evening. He said he is not allowed to visit her.
Cheng’s sentencing comes as China is under fire for its hardline reaction to the Liu’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. A Nobel official said Thursday that the award and prize may not be able to be handed out this year because China is not likely to let anyone from Liu’s family attend the ceremony.
Outraged by the award, Beijing has reportedly clamped down on Liu’s relatives and pressured other countries not to send representatives to the Dec. 10 award ceremony in Oslo.
The prestigious 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award can only be collected by the laureate or close family members.
Liu, a Chinese dissident, is serving an 11-year sentence for subversion after co-authoring an appeal calling for reforms to China’s one-party political system. His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest and subject to police escort since the award was announced last month.
By CHI-CHI ZHANG
Thu Nov 18, 11:00 pm ET