Chinese Rock Singer’s Detention Imperils Internet Freedom of Speech
Chinese rock singer, Wu Hongfei, wrote in her micro-blog
that “I want to explode the Construction Commission."
She was detained and charged with “fabricating
terrorist information", she may face 5-year jail term.
The public support Wu Hongfei as innocent, and said that
how the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) deal with
Wu Hongfei is an issue concerning freedom of expression in China.
Many believe that once Wu Hongfei is convicted criminally,
it will signal the end of the freedom of speech.
Wu Hongfei’s two lawyers, Li Jinxing and Chen Jiangang,
issued a statement on July 27.
It says that “based on existing evidence",
Wu’s remarks “clearly do not constitute any crime."
Lawyer Chen Jiangang: “What is a crime?
It should be an act causing serious social harm.
Wu Hongfei has made a few remarks,
just venting her personal discontent.
It was her sentiment, not an attempt at any offence,
nor was it an action that led to any offensive act.
So it is clear that this cannot
constitute a crime at all.
This issue is important, for it affects the matter of
citizens’ rights to freedom of speech.
Distinguishing the right to freedom of expression as
distinct from any criminal offense is what really matters."
Legally, fabrication and the deliberate spreading of
misinformation may mean a 5-year prison term.
Yet, it is premised on the assumption that
“disturbance of public order" will be caused.
This is clearly not the case with Wu Hongfei’s
supposed, “offense", lawyers say.
It was not even a “disturbance of public order"
in terms of public security administration.
The lawyer’s argument has gained wide public support.
(Veteran media professional, China) Gao Yu:
“How could such an utterance jeopardize society?
Today, the Chinese people love cursing, making charges
against persons or against society as a whole.
If it were to be deemed a crime, the entire population
would become criminals. The charge is utterly absurd."
Reportedly, about 80% of Chinese netizens take
Wu’s remark as a form of complaint, improper perhaps, though merely foolish.
They don’t think it could possibly affect
society adversely, neither is it really seditious.
Netizens have commented that citizens must have
the freedom to express their discontent.
(Cyber writer, China) Liu Yiming: “Wu Hongfei just
used unwisely violent language in her remarks.
We don’t believe that she would create a real explosion."
Chen Jiangang: “Anyone should have freedom of speech,
which is a constitutional right.
In any normal country, unlike such an authoritarian state,
citizens have the right of expression, to complain, and even to curse."
Under 10% of netizens say that Wu Hongfei is
a public figure, with 120,000 micro-blog fans.
Her radical remarks may play a role in instigation,
and in triggering a negative effect in society.
Liu Yiming: “Public figures should choose the words
they use so much more carefully.
But as for instigation, aren’t TV programs
inciting rebellious action?
There were so many films about the CCP revolution.
And lots of period TV drama series involved plots of
official oppression forcing the masses into revolt.
Weren’t they all the same,
in that they were seditious?
If the authorities can satisfy the people by
just and fair governance,
no matter how much anyone stirs people up,
there will be no danger of violence or unrest."
Only very few people agree with the CCP’s approach
to Wu Hongfei’s harmless banter.
Commentators mainly see the CCP’s taking down of
Wu Hongfei as merely the suppression of freedom of
expression and a warning to dissidents.
This explains why its approach has drawn fierce criticism,
since it has a bearing on every netizen’s rights and interest.
Liu Yiming: “Wu Hongfei is rather outspoken.
The authorities have taken this opportunity to punish her,
this smacks of retaliation.
This is a strategy for punishing Wu Hongfei
as a warning to others."
Liu Yiming adds that currently, there are many
Chinese people who are very unhappy with CCP rule.
Those who vent their discontent on the internet are
still careful and use relatively mild language.
If the CCP, for a fear of these remarks, continues to
suppress freedom of speech over the internet,
Liu believes that the masses, having their on line voice
muffled, will soon use violent action to vent their anger.