Three Chinese Internet activists have been charged with libel and sentenced to prison for posting information regarding an alleged gang rape and murder. They also exposed the subsequent cover-up of the case by police.
The case involved the death of Yan Xiaoling, a female employee at a KTV bar in Mingqing. She died on the night of Feb. 10, 2008, in what Fan Yanqiong, one of the defendants, described as “the most horrendous” murder case in China.
More than 1,000 people from all over the country came to support the three defendants for their trial in Fuzhou in China’s southern Fujian Province on April 16. Police imposed traffic controls and cordoned off the area near the court on the morning of the trial to keep the crowds under control.
All three activists were pronounced guilty of libel: Fan Yanqiong was sentenced to two years; You Jingyou and Wu Huaying each received a one-year prison term.
Fan wrote an article, published on several major websites on June 23, 2009, titled, “Yan Xiaoling: What Happened to Her is 10,000 Times More Horrendous Than What Happened to Deng Yujiao.” Deng is the Chinese waitress who gained fame and public sympathy for stabbing a government official to death to defend herself from his sexual assault. Due to public pressure, she was found not guilty but was subsequently forcibly admitted to a mental hospital, and her current condition is unknown.
Fan’s article quoted Yan’s mother, Lin Xiuying, saying that, on viewing Yan’s body, she found her daughter’s face distorted, her vagina torn, and deep scratches on her wrists.
Lin passed out from the shock. When she came to, she heard a hospital staff person saying, “This girl has died a horrendous death,” and that the injuries to her vagina indicated she had been raped by at least five or six people.
Fan’s Internet posting also exposed that the KTV bar was run by Mingqing County officials, including the deputy chief of the local Public Security Bureau, the prosecutor of the county, and Yan’s boss, Nie Zhixiong, a local mafia boss who had made a fortune selling the illegal drug Ketamine and forcing women into prostitution.
Yan’s family requested an investigation of the bar owner, however, police refused to record the family’s statements about her injuries. Police also refused to retrieve important evidence such as Yan’s cell phone. Instead they forced Lin to leave her finger print on a witness statement made up by the police.
However, the day after Yan’s tragic death, the bar owner’s father told Lin that Yan had been gang-raped by eight people.
On Feb. 16, Yan’s family again requested a statement from the hospital only to find that Yan’s uterus and other reproductive organs had been removed and discarded in a red plastic pail.
After Fan posted the details about Yan’s case, they were widely reposted on blog sites and online forums. Police in Fuzhou then held a press conference to announce that Yan died of an ectopic pregnancy—completely denying the alleged gang-rape. Netizens unanimously questioned and criticized the police response and posted more videos and text materials about the case on the Internet.
On Feb. 26, 2009, Fan Yanqiong was arrested, followed by the detention of eight other netizens involved in spreading the news, including You Jingyou and Wu Huaying who had produced and reposted the video. Prior to the sentencing, two hearings had been held—each had lasted only two minutes.
Losing People’s Hearts
Du Guang, a retired professor of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, remarked that the defamation charge was in line with the authorities’ suppression of the grassroots rights protection movement.
Du said the cause of the sharp conflict between the government and the people was government officials’ abuse of power and their collusion with gangsters and businessmen, as well as the unchecked infringement on people’s rights. When conscientious attorneys and activists stand by the victims, Du said, the authorities will turn the gunpoint at them.
Beijing attorney Li Subin was interviewed by New Epoch Weekly. He said that corrupt officials send bloggers to jail because they fear further exposure of their crimes. Li encouraged Chinese Internet users to break away from fear. “Will everyone remain quiet since they put these three bloggers behind bars?” he asked. “Not likely! Other web users will only become louder and braver in their efforts to protect the legal rights of these three bloggers,” Li said.
Chinese writer Lu Yingjiu said that it was the authorities that were guilty of libel, because the court had wronged conscientious Internet users. “History will remember this black joke: ‘the libel charge’ has become the tool for the government to libel the people,” Li said.
The three defendants have received enormous support from the public. Although most bloggers did not expect mercy from the court, many nevertheless cried after hearing the verdicts.
One Chinese blogger commented, “Those fools convicted three people, but lost the hearts of three hundred million.”
Read the original Chinese article.