A Chinese woman has been arrested on her wedding day and sentenced to a year in a labour camp for retweeting a message on Twitter that “disturbed social order”.
Cheng Jianping is thought to be the first Chinese citizen to be imprisoned for a single tweet.
Her incarceration is the most severe punishment related to a tweet recorded to date and has prompted outrage from the Twitter community – who only last week rallied to support a man convicted over a ‘joke’ tweet.
Miss Jianping, who is understood to be in her 20s, disappeared on her wedding day – 10 days after retweeting a satirical suggestion that the Japanese Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo be attacked.
Her fiancé Hua Chunhui sent the original tweet, apparently mocking China’s young nationalist demonstrators who had destroyed Japanese products in protest over a maritime incident between China and Japan involving the disputed DIaoyu/Senkaku islands.
Mr Chunhui is not thought to have been charged over the tweet, Amnesty International told Channel 4 News. However, Miss Jianping was detained and sentenced to a year of ‘re-education through labour’ on Monday.
“Sentencing someone to a year in a labour camp, without trial, for simply retweeting another person’s clearly satirical observation on Twitter demonstrates the level of China’s repression of online expression.” Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International
This punishment can stretch to four years, without trial by an independent court, at the discretion of the police.
Mr Chunhui’s tweet originally 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.”
Miss Jianping retweeted her fiancée’s tweet, tacking on the comment: “Angry youth, charge!” from her Twitter account @wangyi09.
Only three people retweeted her tweet, none of whom are thought to have been detained by Chinese authorities.
Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director, said: “Sentencing someone to a year in a labour camp, without trial, for simply retweeting another person’s clearly satirical observation on Twitter demonstrates the level of China’s repression of online expression.
“It is possible that Cheng Jianping may have been targeted for her online activism over the last few years and her expressions of support for other Chinese dissidents and activists.”
Miss Jianping is understood to have taken part in some online activism – albeit at low-levels. She has voiced support for the imprisoned Nobel Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo and Zhao Lianhai, an imprisoned consumer rights advocate.
While Twitter is officially blocked in China on the basis that it is illegal, according to Amnesty International it is common knowledge that there are ways round the block by using external computer servers.
It is favoured by human rights defenders as a means to quickly establish contact to organise protests. Twitter could not be reached for comment.