Arrested for Ridiculing a Government Official in a Text Message

By Wang Manna, Central News Agency
November 5, 2006 Updated: November 5, 2006

CHINA—Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said that police in Pengshui County, Chongqing City, China, recently arrested 25 people caught sending text messages, using their cell phones, that expressed their dissatisfaction with the Chinese Communist regime and local authorities.

On August 25, Qin Zhongfei, a staff member of the Education Committee in Pengshui County sent a 120-word message to his friend that ridiculed the way a Pengshui County leader handled education and public works assignments. Qin's friend then forwarded the message to other friends.

On August 31 the police of Chongqing City arrested Qin Zhongfei. Qin was held in custody until October 24. The other 24 people who had sent or received the message were only detained for several hours. Qin Zhongfei was detained for 54 days for the crime of “defamation;” however, the police could not say whom he had defamed because he had not mentioned any names in the text he sent.

Qin would not say whether the police were going to charge him with “inciting subversion.” He only said it was a nightmare and that he did not want to talk about it. The Information Center pointed out that, by the end of October, China had 420 million cell phone users. Cell phone users sent 304.6 billion short messages last year.

The Center believes that the police in Chongqing City are arresting cell phone users caught sending text messages that express discontent with the CCP regime or any other officials. Those arrested can be charged with the crimes of “inciting subversion” or “defamation” at any time. The intensive monitoring by the police of cell phone text messages violates the privacy of cell phone users in China.