Henan Authorities Order One-Year Reeducation Through Labor Sentence for Activist's Satirical Tweet

December 10, 2010

Authorities in Henan province have ordered rights defender Cheng Jianping to serve one year of reeducation through labor for a reportedly satirical online post mocking anti-Japanese protests related to an incident at sea in disputed territory between China and Japan. Cheng has a record of activism and online commentary.

The Xinxiang City Reeducation Through Labor Committee in Henan province on November 15, 2010, ordered rights defender Cheng Jianping (who uses the pen name Wang Yi) to serve one year of reeducation through labor, according to a November 15 Chinese Human Rights Defenders article (in Chinese, via Boxun). Authorities alleged that Cheng "disturbed social order" when on October 17 she re-posted or re-tweeted a Twitter (microblog) message from her fiancé. The message concerned anti-Japanese protests following a fishing incident between China and Japan related to an island territorial dispute. According to a November 17 Amnesty International report, the original tweet said "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." The pavilion refers to the Japanese pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. Amnesty said Cheng re-tweeted the comment, adding the words "Angry youth, charge!" Amnesty, Agence France-Presse (November 19, via Google News), and the New York Times (November 18) described the tweet as being "satirical" or "mocking" in tone. Amnesty said, "Cheng may be the first Chinese citizen to become a prisoner of conscience on the basis of a single tweet." The tweet is available (in Chinese) on Twitter here.

Cheng reportedly has a record of activism and online commentary. A representative of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) told the New York Times (NYT) that Cheng was part of a group that advocated on behalf of dissidents by traveling to their trials and posting information online about officials involved in their detention, according to the November 18 article. NYT reported that Cheng also sent a Twitter message in support of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese writer and democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo. Authorities detained her for a short period in August after she expressed support for Liu Xianbin, another detained democracy advocate, according to NYT. Amnesty reported that Cheng also had been involved in fundraising for activists.

Cheng is serving her reeducation through labor sentence at the Shibali River Women's Reeducation Through Labor Center in Zhengzhou city, Henan, according to a November 17 CHRD report (in Chinese, via Boxun). The November 15 CHRD article says that Cheng's sentence is set to end on November 9, 2011. Agence France-Presse reported that Cheng had begun a two-day hunger strike after the conviction. The status of that strike is not known.

The CECC previously reported on an apparent government crackdown on microblogs and blogs in China in the summer of 2010, involving service disruptions at major microblogging sites, removal of the blogs of well-known activists and lawyers, and increased monitoring of journalists' blogs.

For more information on freedom of expression issues in China, see the CECC 2010 Annual Report.