Chinese Woman Sentenced to One Year of “Re-Education Through Labour” Over Satirical Tweet
Like something pulled straight out of George Orwell’s 1984, a Chinese woman has been sentenced to one year of “re-education through labor” without trial on the charges of “disturbing social order”, after she retweeted a satirical joke on Twitter. On October 17, online activist Cheng Jianping tweeted the following message, first posted by her fiancé Hua Chunhui:
Angry youth, charge! RT @wxhch: Events like the Anti-Japan demonstration and smashing of Japanese goods — Guo Quan and his cohorts have already done this before, it’s nothing new. Actually, if you wanted to kick it up a notch, you’d fly straight to the Shanghai World Expo and destroy the Japanese Pavilion.
While the tweet was intended to mock the wave of nationalistic anti-Japanese sentiment that has swept China in the wake of a maritime incident involving the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, the local thought police obviously did not find it as funny. Cheng disappeared ten days later, on what was supposed to be the day of her wedding. Only this week was it revealed that she had been detained and sentenced to spend the next year at a “re-education camp”.
According to Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International‘s Director for the Asia-Pacific, “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.” Cheng is thought to be the first Chinese citizen to become a prisoner of conscience on the basis of a single tweet.
Although Twitter is blocked in China, it is still widely used by human rights activists who find ways around the firewall using proxies and the like. Cheng’s case shows that there are really no safe havens on the internet — even tweetcrime is punishable in the PRC. As one Redditor puts it: “Dissent in 140 [sic] characters or less.”