Yan Xiaoling’s mother, Lin Xiuying, outside the Fujian courthouse on Friday. Photo from Global Voices Online. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Three bloggers from Fujian who spread information online relating to the alleged rape and murder of Yan Xiaoling were found guilty of slander on Friday. AP reported that self-taught legal expert Fan Yanqiong received a two year sentence, whilst two others, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying, will each spend one year in prison.
The trio’s lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, slammed the verdict, saying he witnessed the “dark side” of China’s legal system:
The court said the three people’s actions have seriously affected the interest of the state, which is laughable. It infringes on the people’s freedom of speech, which is the legal right of citizens.
The trio had filmed an interview with Yan’s mother, Lin Xiuying, in which she claims police had gang raped and murdered her daughter in 2008. However, police in Fujian’s Mingqin county ruled that the 25-year-old had died from an abnormal pregnancy. The footage was posted online and spread rampantly, leading to several netizens’ arrests from June 2009.
The saga has struck a chord with citizens both online and off. Last month, supporters gathered outside the Fuzhou courthouse in anticipation of the long-awaited verdict, which was subsequently postponed after a court session that had apparently “lasted only a minute.” On Friday, between several hundred and 2,000 people showed up outside the Mawei District Court in what has since been deemed a “landmark protest.” Tweets were sent as events unfolded, which were reposted on absent bloggers’ sites to rally further support.
It also remains unclear who the trio were guilty of slandering. According to former CCP Central Party School director Du Guang, whose post on Liu Xiaoyuan’s blog has been translated by Global Voices Online’s John Kennedy, slander has little to do with the bloggers’ sentences:
Their years of social activism [which] long ago brought them into sight of authorities, and seeking redress for Lin Xiuying [now] was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. The nature of this “false accusation” case lies not in Yan Xiaoling’s cause of death or in that some cadres were “accused”, but in official suppression of the rights defence movement.
The events are another example of how the spread of information online, mixed with growing contentions in China’s society, can create a concoction that leaves a sour taste in the CCP’s mouth. It is hardly surprising that the PRC has recently set up an ‘Internet News Coordination’ bureau to monitor netizens’ use of social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Meanwhile, as controls on the freedom of speech tighten, the perpetrators of a horrific crime that cost Lin Xiuying her daughter remain free.
For pictures of supporters protesting, as well as blogger Han Han’s reactions to the trial, click here.