Wang Yibo is being hailed as the most prominent Chinese activist since Liu Xiaobo (who won the Nobel Peace Prize after being sentenced to prison in 2009).
On a Friday evening of August 2014 at about 7:00 p.m., audiences of the popular TV singing contest “Voice of China” got a glance of something they weren’t expecting. On what is a fairly nationalistic programme, slogans attacking the Chinese Communist Party were smeared across the viewers’ screens, the Los Angeles Times reports, including such cheerful refrains as “End the Communist mafia’s tyrannical rule!” “Establish a democratic government!” and “The Communist mafia’s government is the axis of evil in the whole universe!”
The slogans were broadcast on state-owned cable TV provider CN Cable Networks to around 465,000 viewers in the eastern city of Wenzhou. The cable TV provider completely shut down the network for five hours after the incident occurred in order to clear the slogans from its system.
Wang Yibo, 41, was arrested in Beijing airport on August 16th last year, upon returning from a family holiday with his wife and child in the USA. He’s now been sentenced to 12 years in prison for spreading the subversive messages, state-run China Central Television reported on Tuesday. The courts found him guilty of illegally breaching and damaging computer systems and falsely incriminating others. He did not have a history of speaking-out against the party, but the court linked him to two infamous dissidents: Xu Zhiyong and Ai Weiwei.
Police were led to Wang because of a watermark on the aired images, reading “Powered by NDS”, showing the company he worked for. Since 2002, he had been a software engineer at NDS cable network solutions based in Beijing and Shenzhen. The police summoned 40 of his managers to testify against Wang in court, and they described him as someone who often complained about not being given important positions or promotions.
In a phone interview, Wang’s lawyer claimed there was no evidence that Wang had any political motives.
“Based on my conversation with Wang, I don’t think he’s a person with strong political opinions,” said Shen Genlan, a Wenzhou-based attorney who was hired by Wang’s wife to represent him. “I don’t think he has intentions to [push] some kind of political agenda.”
In Wang’s defence, Shen argued that her client had made an error when installing a test program into the cable TV provider’s system. Wang downloaded the test program from the Internet, and the program came with the anti-Communist party messages. Wang had forgotten to remove the messages before installing the program, she said.
After the first sentence in March, Wang appealed to a higher court in Wenzhou last month that upheld the guilty verdict.
By Dan Cunningham