Tweet lands woman in China labour camp

18 Nov 2010

An online activist in China has been sentenced to one year in a labour camp for retweeting a satirical message on microblogging site Twitter.

Cheng Jianping was sentenced under the grounds of “disturbing social order” for retweeting (reposting in her own account) a satirical message.

The tweet made fun of China’s nationalist demonstrators who had smashed Japanese products to protest a maritime incident between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.

“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,” read the tweet, originally posted by Cheng’s fiancé, Hua Chunhui.

Cheng retweeted the message, adding “Angry youth, charge!” It was retweeted by three others.

Twitter is banned in China, but is accessed by human rights activists within the country to organise support.

Amnesty International strongly condemned the arrest, which may be the first time a Chinese citizen has been detained over a tweet.

“Sentencing someone to a year in a labour camp, without trial, for simply repeating another person’s clearly satirical observation on Twitter demonstrates the level of China’s repression of online expression,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s director for the Asia-Pacific in a statement.

Zarifi added that the arrest could’ve have been more to do with Cheng’s “online activism over the last few years and her expressions of support for other Chinese dissidents and activists.”

She was said to have participated in low-level online activism in the past, including supporting the imprisoned Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and fundraising for the support of other activists.