Human rights organisation Amnesty International is campaigning for the release of a Chinese woman who has been been sentenced to one year in a labour camp for retweeting a satirical suggestion that Japanese Pavillion at the Shanghai Expo should be attacked.
The lady in question is Cheng Jianping, a Chinese online activist who retweeted the message on October 17. Her sentence of one year’s ‘Re-education Through Labour’ was passed on Monday, a punishment for “disturbing social order”. Cheng had actually gone missing days previous, missing her wedding day in the process, her location undisclosed until it was found she had been arrested and detained by local police.
As you have read above, Cheng didn’t actually create the initial tweet, choosing instead to retweet a message posted by her fiance. The tweet mocked demonstrators that had smashed Japanese products as a result of skirmishes between Chinese and Japanese fishing boats regarding the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.
The tweet read:
“Anti-Japanese demonstrations, smashing Japanese products, that was all done years ago by Guo Quan [an activist and expert on the Nanjing Massacre]. 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.”
Cheng, seemingly agreeing with the message, retweeted the passage, adding “Angry youth, charge!” to the end. Three other people had retweeted the initial tweet and it is not know whether Cheng’s fiance was detained as a result of posting the original message.
It is thought that because Cheng had been involved in low-level online activism, her tweet was the straw that broke the [Chinese governments] camels back. Cheng’s sentence, although indicated to be one year, can strip an individual of their liberty for as much as 4 years, needing only a police decision and not a trial by an independent court.
Cheng’s sentence is a stark contrast to the Robin Hood airport fiasco, a situation where a gentleman named Paul Chambers was arrested for a tweet that jokingly suggested he would blow up the airport if it was not reopened. At his trial he was found guilty of “Sending by a public communications network a message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” and fined £1000. He also lost his job twice as a result of the case. Thousands of Twitter users supported his cause, taking to Twitter to retweet the offending message, adding #iamspartacus hashtag at the end.
Quite staggering, the difference between the two punishments. We will keep you updated as this develops.