China recently tightened restrictions on people who use the Internet, and introduced penalties for bloggers whose dissident or illegal posts go viral. And already, one teenager is paying the price. Police in Zhangjiachuan County, Gansu province, detained a 16-year-old named Yang for “disrupting social order.”
According to the Beijing Times via Quartz, Yang wrote posts on Chinese social media giant Weibo about a death in the community that had gone under-reported. He believed the police investigation to be unjust and blogged about his issues with the way they handled the situation. The victim was found outside of a karaoke bar with head wounds and died before police arrived at the scene, and his death was reported as accidental. Family members suspected something was amiss, and the police said they were spreading false information about the circumstances of the death.
The new Chinese law makes it illegal to post false information if it is harmful to others, and calls for the arrest of people who post false information that is re-tweeted 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people. While the Beijing Times noted that it didn’t appear that Yang’s posts were re-blogged that many times, they did contain false information, since he identified the legal representative of the karaoke bar where the body was found as a court official, while that was not the case (it was the wife of a police officer).
Yang isn’t the only person in trouble as a result of these new laws. Well known Chinese-American blogger Charles Xue was arrested for hiring a prostitute three weeks ago, but many suspect the real reason for his detainment is his liberal blog posts. And there’s a lot to be suspicious about; Chinese state television broadcast Xue’s so-called confession, in which he railed, in handcuffs, against the destructive forces… of micro-blogging. The out-of-character and likely coerced speech indicates Chinese officials mean to curb blogging critical of the party line through intimidation.