Chinese police have detained an activist singer after she wrote online that she wanted to blow up government buildings.
Shortly after a man set off a bomb at Beijing's airport on July 20, 2013, Wu Hongfei, a former journalist and now a singer based in Beijing, posted on China’s most popular microblogging site Sina Weibo that she wanted to blow up two local government departments. She was detained two days later by Beijing police on the charge of “causing trouble”.
Beijing police confirmed on July 26 that Wu is detained for falsifying a terrorist threat, a crime that may result in five years in prison.
Many thought the threat was not serious, but they suspected that Wu's detention was political retribution for her past criticisms of the government and that the police will want to make an example of her to deter others.
The detention of Wu has triggered discussions on Sina Weibo over whether Wu's post should be considered as a terrorist threat.
Global Times reported that a Sina Weibo vote with more than 27,000 participants showed that nearly 82 percent of those polled said Wu should not receive a criminal sentence, even though her words were inappropriate.
Many lawyers and intellectuals argue that Wu committed a crime that does not exist, and others call for freedom of speech to ensure a healthy society.
A Shanghai-based Lawyer wrote [zh]:
It’s not a question of whether or not Wu should be sent to prison, the fact is that the crime doesn’t exist.
Professor Wang Quanjie uploaded [zh] evidence of similar violent speeches in the past by other bloggers:
If Wu Hongfei is to be sentenced, how about those bloggers who threatened in public to kill people?
Writer Tianyou wrote [zh]:
Singer Wu Hongfei’s detention makes people feel [the government] is so scared that they see everyone as their enemy. It also reminds me of how they deal with other criminal cases. They have no wisdom, and are totally clueless and brutal. If the situations don’t change, the tension between the government and the ordinary citizens will be more intensified.
Professor Kan Hongguo from Northwest University of Politics maintained [zh] that freedom of speech is key to a healthy society:
Freedom of speech is essential to a healthy civil society. Lacking in freedom of speech will lead to morbid government. In fact, the government does not benefit from the abuse of law. The positive interaction between freedom of speech and restraint power is the greatest gospel for the government and citizens.
Law Professor of Beijing University Zhang Qianfan quoted [zh] famous Chinese politician and intellectual Luo Longji:
“The oppression of freedom of speech is more dangerous than freedom of expression.” Citizens’ comments can be calm and rational, or extreme and radical, even with signs of violent threat, but as long as there is room for discussion and persuasion, you can not use the state apparatus to suppress freedom of speech, even if it is in the name of law.