Chinese repression creates the world's first Twitter martyr

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The Independent Online

China's paranoia about dissent has plumbed new, absurdist depths with the sentencing of a woman to a year in a labour camp for re-posting a Tweet from her fiancé. Cheng Jianping was arrested on what would have been her wedding day, and is believed to be the first person in the world to be jailed for using Twitter.

Twitter's chief executive, Dick Costolo, posted a message on his service yesterday which read: "Dear Chinese Government, year-long detentions for sending a sarcastic Tweet is neither the way forward nor the future of your great people." Amnesty International and other human rights groups joined the condemnation.

Ms Cheng's fiancé, Hua Chunhui, said the original Tweet was a send-up of recent anti-Japanese protests in China. It read: "Anti-Japanese demonstrations, smashing Japanese products, that was all done years ago by Guo Quan [an activist and expert on the 1937 Nanking Massacre]. It's no new trick. If you really wanted to kick it up a notch, you'd immediately fly to Shanghai to smash the Japanese expo pavilion." Ms Cheng re-posted this, adding: "Angry youth, charge!" She had previously posted a message in support of Liu Xiaobo, the jailed pro-democracy campaigner recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Twitter is blocked in China, but some human rights activists bypass the controls. Mr Hua said his fiancée arrived at a labour re-education centre in central China's Henan Province on Wednesday, but he is not allowed to visit her.

China is also under fire for its hardline reaction to Mr Liu winning the Nobel. A Nobel official said on Thursday that the award may not be presented this year because China is unlikely to let anyone from Mr Liu's family attend the ceremony. Beijing has clamped down on Mr Liu's relatives and pressured other countries not to send representatives to the 10 December ceremony in Oslo.