A Chinese bride-to-be who wrote an anti-Japanese message on the microblogging service Twitter has been handed a one-year term in labor camp by local police, who detained her on the day of her wedding.
Authorities in Henan's Xinxiang city on Monday ordered Cheng Jianping, who posts online under the name Wang Yi, to undergo "re-education through labor" for "disturbing social order," a national security police officer confirmed.
Chen Lei, deputy chief of the national security police branch in Xinxiang's Changyuan county, said the sentence was triggered by postings Cheng made online.
Chen's team leader, surnamed Wang, said Cheng had been told she could still go to a court to appeal the sentence, which will run until Nov. 9, 2011.
"She has the right to have a court reconsider this decision, or to ask for an administrative appeal," Wang said.
"She will have her own arguments to make. We are just the enforcers."
Wedding day disappearance
The sentence follows 18 days of concern and speculation among those who knew Cheng, last seen on Oct. 28, which was to have been her wedding day.
Cheng's fiance, who lives in the eastern city of Wuxi, said the couple had already registered for a marriage ceremony, which was scheduled to take place on the day she disappeared.
"We had scheduled for it to take place on that day," Hua Chunhui said.
"But she went to work that day, and then I didn't see her again."
Hua said he had learned the news of Cheng's sentence from her sister.
"I haven't read the official document yet," he said, adding that Cheng had been detained by police once before, when she was living at his Wuxi home, and escorted back to her home province of Henan.
"She was put under house arrest in Henan," Hua said.
He said that Cheng was forced to "take a holiday" with police, who held her in a hotel pending the decision by a re-education through labor committee.
He said the sentence was sparked by an Oct. 17 retweet which called on the nation's "angry youth" patriotic movement to charge in and smash the Japanese pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, which ended in October.
"Angry youth! Charge!" Cheng added to an original tweet by Hua.
Hua's tweet read: "Actually with these anti-Japanese demos, the smashing of Japanese goods and so on is nothing new. It was done many years ago by [former Nanjing University professor] Guo Quan. If you really wanted to kickstart things [add energy] it would be better to fly to Shanghai and smash the Japanese pavilion at the World Expo."
Chinese authorities have moved to calm tensions amid a wave of anti-Japanese protests over a simmering territorial dispute sparked by Japan's detention last month of a Chinese fishing boat captain in the East China Sea.
Japanese Prime Minister Kan has called the protests “regrettable” while the Chinese government described the anti-Japanese sentiment as “understandable."
The sometimes violent demonstrations were believed to be the largest in more than five years, and included protests and marches in Chengdu, Xi’an, Zhengzhou, and Hangzhou.
Li Jinfang, a rights activist based in Hebei province's Baoding city, said all Cheng had done was add a few characters of comment to an existing post mentioning smashing Japan's World Expo pavilion, before retweeting it.
"It was something like, 'come on angry youth, let's get smashing!'," Li said.
"There was no due process. The police just decided to send her to labor camp for a year," she said.
"I think the re-education through labor system should be abolished," Li added. "It means that they can take away a person's freedom whenever they like, without any formalities or any judicial process at all."
Reform through labor can technically be handed out as an administrative sentence for up to three years without recourse to a court, but recent guidelines typically limit the term to two years.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.