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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 29 May, 2020

Lawyers ask Twitter to campaign for jailed Chinese user

A Chinese woman was sent to a Labour camp for retweeting a sarcastic anti-Japanese message – and lawyers want help.

China officially blocks Twitter, advocating the use of home-grown - and censored - alternatives used by officials.
China officially blocks Twitter, advocating the use of home-grown - and censored - alternatives used by officials.
Image: Pan deng/AP

CHINESE HUMAN RIGHTS lawyers have appealed to Twitter to take a more active role in the case of a Chinese user who was jailed last year for retweeting a sarcastic message.

Cheng Jianping (46) was sentenced to a year’s hard labour in November for retweeting a tongue-in-cheek message – originally posted by her fiancé – which jokingly advised anti-Japanese protesters to attack the Japanese pavilion at the Expo in Shanghai.

The only addition to the tweet Cheng made were the words ‘Angry youth, charge!’, in front of the original tweet.

Though Cheng and her fiancé insisted that the message was satirical – with both claiming to be tired of the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment – she was given twelve months’ ‘re-education through labour’, and was told she could not meet her lawyers.

Those lawyers have now asked Twitter to pressure China into releasing Cheng, writing an open letter to CEO Dick Costolo pleading for a more determined input from the microblogging service.

They were inspired, they say, by a tweet sent by Costolo in November – in the wake of Cheng’s sentencing – when he commented that “year-long detentions for sending a sarcastic tweet are neither the way forward nor the future of your great people”.

The lawyers also say that the version of the tweet that was presented by the provincial government when issuing its statement had had the extra words ‘Hurry, go smash’ retrospectively – and incorrectly – included.

Twitter is officially blocked by China’s Golden Shield – or ‘Great Firewall’ – but more technologically adept users still access the service by using foreign-based proxy servers.

The government instead advocates the use of Chinese-based microblogging alternatives, which are heavily censored and block certain words and phrases from being published.

Twitter has yet to comment on the campaign.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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