A Chinese court in the city of Fuzhou has sentenced three Chinese Internet activists to prison terms for posting material to the Internet in hopes of pressuring authorities to re-examine a case involving the death of a young woman. The court found the activists guilty of slander, saying that that their actions went against the interests of the Chinese state.
According to the Associated Press, one of the activists—Fan Yanqiong—was sentenced to two years in prison, while two others—Wu Huaying and You Jingyou—were sentenced to one year prison terms.
The three activists had posted online videos and information in an effort to help an illiterate mother, Lin Xiuying, get Chinese authorities to reopen an investigation into the death of her daughter. Police had ruled her death the result of an abnormal pregnancy, but Lin contended her daughter died from injuries resulting from a gang-rape by criminals with ties to local police.
According to multiple reports, Fan met Lin as she was sobbing outside a government office in summer of 2009; he took down details of her story and posted them online You and Wu later conducted a video interview with Lin and posted it online.
The trial became something of a spectacle, with several hundred people turning up at the Mawei District People’s Court in a show of support—police cordoned off the area. Some online reports put as many as 2,000 people at the scene, many of whom where shooting cell phone video of events and posting updates to Twitter.
The case is another example of Chinese authorities targeting online speech and growing street-level, grass-roots activism enabled by new Internet technologies. The Chinese government frequently blocks and bans information it believes to be against the interest of the Chinese state.