Netizen ‘Re-educated’ for Online Rant

Chinese cyber authorities send a man to labor camp for mocking a local party chief.

2011.06.06
china-internet-305.jpg A man surfs the Internet in Beijing, June 15, 2009.
AFP

Authorities in China’s southwestern Chongqing city have sent a netizen to labor camp after he posted scatological humor targeting the local Communist Party chief on his blog, according to the man’s son.

The comment, posted online by Fang Hong under the pseudonym Fang Zhusun, ridiculed a city-wide crime-busting campaign directed by party chief Bo Xilai.

In the posting, Fang also condemned the jailing of Li Zhuang, a Beijing lawyer who worked to expose illegal practices used by Chongqing authorities in carrying out the campaign.

“My dad posted the short comment on Tengxun Weibo in April,” Fang’s son Fang Di said in an interview on Monday. “He didn’t mean to harm anyone.”

Tengxun Weibo is a blog hosted by the popular site www.qq.com.

No documentation

On April 22, shortly after posting his comment, the Chongqing cyber police contacted Fang and requested that he delete it. Local police detained Fang on April 25.

Several days later, his son said, Fang was sent to an addiction treatment facility for “education through labor,” the legal term for labor camp.

“We still have not yet received the formal legal notification document for my dad’s confinement in the labor camp,” the younger Fang said.

“We only received a notice informing us of my dad being questioned by police,” he said.

“I think their punishment is too harsh and police are harboring ill-will. I will appeal the decision.”

Illegal confinement

On Sunday, Fang Di posted a message on the Internet detailing why his father was sent to a labor camp in Chongqing.

Xu Zhiyong, a Beijing-based rights lawyer, forwarded Fang’s message to the popular blog site Kaidi Shequ, where it was viewed nearly 200,000 times within several hours of its posting.

Fang’s original post was deleted on Monday.

“Education through labor itself is illegal, because the practice has already been annulled by law. But currently, the punishment is still used by police based on a directive issued by the Ministry of Public Security. It is unlawful,” said rights lawyer Ma Gangquan, in an interview Monday.

“Fang’s case is absurd. His post hasn’t violated any law or rule on the Internet, and is rather a form of free expression. Sending him to a labor camp is a violation of law in our country,” Ma said.

Bo Xilai is the Party secretary of Chongqing municipality, and widely believed to be one of the contenders for a seat on the politburo standing committee next year.

Internet controls tightened

In May, China set up a nationwide command center to oversee the country's 477 million netizens and to "manage information" on the Internet, prompting fears that online controls will get tighter still.

The State Internet Information Office, directly under the control of China's cabinet, or State Council, will "direct, coordinate, and supervise online content management," official media reported.

The most recent crackdown on dissent in China began following anonymous online calls for a "Jasmine" revolution, inspired by recent uprisings in the Middle East.

Rights groups say dozens of activists, lawyers, and cyber-dissidents have been detained, sent to labor camp, or sentenced to jail terms for subversion.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA’s Mandarin service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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