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Associated Press, Published November 18 2010

Chinese woman sent to labor camp for retweeting

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.


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