Chinese Tweeter Held for ‘Defaming’ Communist Heroes Sues Police

2013-12-03
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A Chinese netizen uses Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service of Sina, in a rural village in southwest China's Guizhou province, Dec. 15, 2012.
A Chinese netizen uses Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service of Sina, in a rural village in southwest China's Guizhou province, Dec. 15, 2012.
Imaginechina

A Chinese microblog user detained by police after he retweeted an alternative view of a group of Communist heroes during the Japanese invasion is suing the authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Zhang Guanghong was detained by police and held for seven days' administrative detention after he retweeted a post saying that five much-lauded hero soldiers from the time of the Japanese invasion had exploited local people and died ignominious deaths.

"I am a citizen, with certain rights, and the suppression of these rights is the misuse of power on the part of a dictatorship," Zhang told RFA on Tuesday. "I wasn't the originator of that tweet; a friend of mine was, and I just retweeted it."

He said he believed the detention was a form of retaliation for previous tweets about deaths in police custody.

'Defaming' the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain

On Aug. 27, Zhang retweeted a claim that the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain, whose reportedly heroic defense of the area against invading Japanese troops became part of the ruling Chinese Communist Party's revolutionary mythology, had "bullied and oppressed" local civilians.

"[They] caused discontentment and resentment among local villagers, who revealed their whereabouts to the Japanese and then told the five Eighth Route Army soldiers to run away into the impasse," Zhang wrote.

Official Communist Party history praises the five Eighth Route Army soldiers as patriotic heroes who committed suicide by jumping from a cliff after fighting the Japanese with their last ammunition, rocks and other improvised weapons.

Zhang was detained shortly afterward by police in Guangzhou's Yuexiu district for “fabricating information, spreading rumors online, and defaming the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain," official media reported.

"Three policemen came to my door and told me to delete the [tweets about deaths in police custody] but I refused, so they are using this to get back at me," Zhang said.

"Everyone knows that [archetypal revolutionary hero] Lei Feng is fake, so how come it's a crime to come out and blatantly say so?"

The Yuexiu District People's Court is scheduled to hear the lawsuit next Wednesday.

Interpreting history

Zhang's lawyer Ge Yongxi challenged the police claim to interpret historical fact.

"In our opinion, the Yuexiu district police department has no proof of the facts of history, nor any means of confirming what those facts of history might be," Ge said.

"When I was a child, there was a highly exaggerated and fictional story in my textbook called the Five Heroes of Liangya Mountain, but there is no basis whatsoever for determining that this highly exaggerated and fictitious story is historical fact," he added.

He said no one was capable of lifting a stone the size of a millstone and hurling it at enemy troops, as the story describes.

China's highest judicial authorities issued a directive on Sept. 1 criminalizing online "rumor-mongering," in a move widely seen as targeting critical comments and negative news on the country's hugely popular social media sites.

Ge said the guidelines stated that only posts with "terrorist" content aimed at causing social chaos were to be considered criminal.

"For example, if you put a bomb in the airport or said you planned to put a bomb somewhere," he said.

"Zhang's comment on the Five Heroes of Langya Mountain definitely doesn't constitute terrorist content, and certainly wouldn't lead to social disorder," Ge added.

"The lawsuit requests that the administrative punishment be revoked, that his computer be returned to him, and that he should receive compensation for wrongful administrative detention along with all legal costs," the lawyer said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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