When Cheng Jianping didn’t show up for her wedding ceremony on October 27th, her fiancé and family thought she’d gotten cold feet.
But this week, they discovered that Cheng was in police custody. She’d been arrested on her wedding day, detained without trial, and sentenced to one year of “re-education” at a labor camp. Why? Because Cheng re-tweeted a joke.
Twitter is blocked in China, but web-savvy Chinese have found ways around the ban. Cheng Jianping and her fiancé Hua Chunhui were both active Twitter users. In mid-October, Hua tweeted:
“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.”
Cheng then re-tweeted her fiancé’s tweet, and added three words: “Angry youth, charge!” Ten days later, Cheng disappeared.
Chinese police allege that Cheng’s tweet expressed dangerous anti-Japanese sentiment. Cheng is serving her year-long sentence at the Shibali River women’s labor camp in Zhengzhou city. Her fiance Hua, who has not been detained, says Cheng is now on a hunger strike.
Amnesty International points out that Cheng may have been targeted for her past low-level human rights activism. Cheng had previously expressed online support for Nobel Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo and consumer rights advocate Zhao Lianhai. But Amnesty Director for the Asia-Pacific Sam Zarifi emphasizes that the government is not accusing Cheng of any crime other than her offending re-tweet.
“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,” Zarifi says.
CEI and other pro-liberty groups have been celebrating this week’s release of Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, who spent four years behind bars for criticizing the Egyptian government. Now, Cheng Jianping’s story reminds us that oppressive governments around the world are locking new people up every day.
So tweet, blog, and email about what the Chinese government is doing to Cheng Jianping–because where Cheng is, she can’t spread the word herself.