Free speech blocked: Two WeChat users arrested

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the arrest and sentencing of two WeChat users for content they shared on the social media platform.

According to Sing Tao¸ Huang Shike, 49, was charged by Ili Kazakh police in Xinjiang in August 2016 for sharing messages on WeChat about Islamic ceremonies and messages from the Quran. A local court found him guilty of seriously disturbing normal religious activities and disturbing social order, and sentenced him to two years in jail. In March 2017, Huang appealed his conviction, but it was refused by the local court. In a judgement from March 10, the appeal court agreed that Huang’s act did not amount to disturbing normal religious activities, however the court said that the act did amount to disturbing social order, as outlined in Section (1) 287 in the Criminal Law of China.

In a separate case, according to a police detention notice issued on September 5, Yang Qingsong, 24, was sentenced to five days administrative detention by police in Jieshou in Anhui province. Police had accused Yang of posting a ‘teasing’ message to a WeChat group. In the message he questioned whether police had conducted a drug driving test on a rainy night. Police claimed that the message caused unwanted social influence.

These two cases are illustrative of the recent crackdown on freedom of expression in the online space in China. In the past month, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has issued four new guidelines and regulations to restrain freedom of expression online. One of the regulations has now imposed responsibility on chat group administrators to censor ‘critical’ information.

Since July 1, 2017 the IFJ has recorded 51 arrests and detentions of media workers and activists in China.

The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “Although not all the new CAC regulations have come into effect, it is clear that the authorities across China have started to crackdown on freedom of expression and speech online. In the past two months, the IFJ has continued to monitor the situation, noting a sharp increase in the number of media workers and activists detained and arrested in China, which is raising concerns about the coming month as we near the 19th National Congress.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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