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Posted at 9:38 AM ET, 11/18/2010

Chinese Twitter sentence: a year in a labor camp for a retweet

By Melissa Bell
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The Twitter avatar for Cheng Jianping.

A retweeted joke has landed a Chinese woman in a labor camp for a year, Amnesty International reported Wednesday.

On the day of her wedding, Oct. 27, Chinese online activist Cheng Jianping disappeared. Only this week did her whereabouts surface: She had been detained and sentenced by police to a year of "re-education through labor" for retweeting a suggestion that Chinese youth attack the Japanese Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.

Her fiance Hua Chunhui made a satirical comment mocking youth demonstrators who smashed Japanese products in protest over a dispute with Japan over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

"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," Hua wrote.

Cheng retweeted the message and added "Charge, angry youth!" in a message, which has since disappeared from the micro-blogging site.

Hua has not been arrested. The BBC reports that Cheng has been sent to Shibali River women's labor camp in Zhengzhou city in Henan province.

"Cheng may be the first Chinese citizen to become a prisoner of conscience on the basis of a single tweet," Amnesty International wrote.

However, other Chinese activists on Twitter say that Cheng has been watched by police for her activism in support of imprisoned Nobel Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo and imprisoned consumer rights advocate Zhao Lianhai.

Twitter is banned in China, but users can circumvent the blocks implemented by the government.

Amnesty International became aware of the arrest through a Radio Free Asia report.

This is not the first news of a tweet landing a user in trouble. Just last week, a British man lost his appeal for a sentencing over a tweet.

In January, a British man sent out a tweet, complaining about airport delays. "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s-- together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" Paul J. Chambers wrote.

The British police a few weeks later decided the tweet represented a terrorist threat and not just a frustrated passenger mouthing off. They arrested Chambers. He's been fined around $4,000 and has lost two jobs because of the trial.

By Melissa Bell  | November 18, 2010; 9:38 AM ET
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Comments

While we in the free speech west deplore the actions of the Chinese totalitarian state in imprisoning activists who champion free speech, I am strongly of the opinion that violence is no way to gain one's ends. Incitement to violent destructive behaviour is indeed an 'Act of threatened terrorism'. Remember the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and negotiate peacefully to improve matters. Meanwhile a year in a labour camp is a very severe punishment and the authorities would do well to review this lady's case-- and by releasing her gain much in the eyes of the world.

Posted by: davebutcher74googlemailcom | November 19, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

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