Three Fujian Digital Activists Convicted as Thousands Gather in Landmark ProtestApril 16, 2010 Comments Off on Three Fujian Digital Activists Convicted as Thousands Gather in Landmark Protest
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- April 16, 2010) Fujian activists Fan Yanqiong (范燕琼), Wu Huaying (吴华英), and You Jingyou (游精佑) were convicted of “slander” today for posting articles and video online urging government officials to investigate the alleged rape and murder of a young woman. Fan, who is seriously ill, was sentenced to two years in prison, while Wu and You were both sentenced to one year. Fan and Wu said they will appeal their sentences, while You is considering the option. The Mawei District Court in Fuzhou City handed down the verdict as thousands of protestors gathered outside the courthouse and countless others followed the proceedings online.
“As the Chinese government rolls out increasingly draconian measures on internet censorship, these sentences serve as a reminder that the authorities remain determined to punish online speech,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “Yet, the remarkable show of support for the defendants by netizens online and on the ground shows a defiance and determination to fight back.”
The court, perhaps as a result of pressure from China’s netizens, in an unusual move held three hearings before issuing a verdict. Furthermore, the sentences are relatively light compared to other cases involving internet postings in recent years. The charge of “slander” as applied in this case is typically used to penalize those who write about corruption or the misconduct of officials.
A crowd of netizens estimated by some to be between one and two thousand began gathering outside of the Mawei District Court in the early morning hours to voice their support for the three on trial. Netizens from around the country, mobilized through blogs, QQ groups, Twitter, and other internet tools carried signs protesting the charges against Fan, Wu, and You and demanding justice (for images from the protests, please see here). The demonstration was particularly notable as it was one of the largest such actions organized in response to government persecution of online speech. The proceedings were widely followed online across China, as netizens on the scene posted updates throughout the morning.
Supporters see a threat to their own freedoms and rights inherent in the government’s retaliation against Fan, Wu, and You. As one netizen posted on Twitter, following the verdict: “What a bunch of fools. By sentencing three people, they have lost 300 million.” Another Twitter user called it “a historic moment.”
“If political repression has driven activism in China largely online, the government-declared cyber war on activism has failed to stifle online mobilization and, more significantly, the return of activism to real space,” said Xia.
CHRD calls on the Chinese government to immediately release Fan, Wu, and You, who have already been detained for nearly 10 months for the nonviolent act of expressing their opinions online. The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed by Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.
CHRD is also deeply concerned by the government’s decision to convict Fan Yanqiong and sentence her to further incarceration despite her serious illnesses. Fan, who appeared in court today in a wheelchair, faces the threat of paralysis due to cerebral arteritis, a serious neurological disease which has left her unable to walk. She also suffers from complications from kidney disease. Family members have applied for her release on medical parole on five occasions, but Fujian authorities have either denied or not responded to these applications.
Fan, Wu, and You were detained in June and July 2009 after they helped Lin Xiuying (林秀英), mother of deceased Fujian woman Yan Xiaoling (严晓玲), post information regarding her daughter’s case online. Lin believes that Yan was gang-raped and murdered by thugs connected to local police, and sought to draw attention to a possible cover-up by local police and officials. The first trial for Fan, Wu, and You, which lasted an entire day, took place on November 11, 2009. A second hearing lasted only a few minutes on March 19, 2010, and ended with the court sending the case back for “supplementary information.”
For more information, please see:
“Trial of Three Fujian Rights Activists Marred by Irregularities,” November 11, 2009, https://www.nchrd.org/index.php/2009/11/11/trial-of-three-fujian-rights-activists-marred-by-irregularities/
“Three Fujian Activists Formally Arrested for Alleging Official Misconduct,” August 4, 2009, https://www.nchrd.org/Article/Class9/Class10/200908/20090804234817_16634.html
“Fujian Activist Detained for Alleging Official Misconduct,” June 30, 2009, https://www.nchrd.org/Article/Class9/Class10/200907/20090701091726_16119.html
Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286
Jiang Yingying, Researcher (English and Mandarin), +852 8170 0237