Following Wu Hongfei’s arrest for a weibo reference to bombing government offices in Beijing, the Happy Avenue rock singer’s lawyers insist that her alleged threat was no more than “an innocent expression of frustration.” From South China Morning Post:
Wu is being held under suspicion of “making up false terrorism information”, according to a report in the Beijing Times yesterday. The charge carries a potential prison sentence of five years.
Her lawyers contend that the singer was only venting her anger about her personal experience with a government agency.
“This case is significant in terms of clarifying the differences between freedom of expression on the internet and a criminal offence,” Wu’s lawyers said in a statement. “We firmly believe that – based on existing information – Wu has committed no crime.”
[…] “‘Terrorism information’ refers to comments such as ‘I installed a bomb somewhere’ or ‘a deadly infectious disease is spreading’, which would cause public panic,” said lawyer Yuan Yulai, who is not representing Wu. “But Wu was only saying she ‘feels like doing something’. The difference is obvious.” [Source]
Both legal experts and the public are divided over whether the detention is an overreaction or an appropriate response in the wake of the Beijing airport explosion on July 21st. From China Daily:
Huang Ming, vice-minister of public security, pledged to “severely punish” those who threaten to start fires, set off bombs or make hoax terrorist threats.
Jia Yan, a prosecutor in Tianjin, said it is inappropriate to post threatening statements after such a series of extreme acts and the singer should be educated or even punished.
“But criminal detention might be too serious. Administrative detention will be enough,” he said.
[…] “She didn’t really mean it, and she would never act on her words. They were just some remarks to vent that she had made many times before,” said Zhang Peng, a business consultant and fan of the singer’s in Beijing.
Zhang, who has been to several of Wu’s shows, said she believes Wu is a person who follows her instincts, a quality that has made her popular. [Source]
According to a China Central Television survey on Sina Weibo, Wu has won considerable sympathy online. From Global Times:
The criminal detention of Wu has ignited discussions on the Internet over whether Wu’s Weibo post could or should be considered as a terrorist threat.
A Sina Weibo vote with more than 27,000 participants as of press time showed that nearly 82 percent of those polled said Wu should not receive a criminal sentence, even though her words were inappropriate.
The remaining 18 percent of those surveyed said that Wu should be held responsible as her post threatened public security. [Source]
The appropriate response to online joke “terrorist threats” has been a fiercely contested issue elsewhere, notably following the 2010 conviction of Briton Paul Chambers.