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China jails man for 18 months over ‘insulting country’s leaders, ruling party’

Chinese regulation of online activity (Methodshop/Flickr)
December 03, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Authorities in the northern province of Shaanxi have jailed a man for 18 months for posting comments about the ruling Chinese Communist Party and its leaders online.

The family of Long Kehai were informed late last month of the sentence, which was handed down by the Weibing District People’s Court in Shaanxi’s Baoji city, which found him guilty of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge frequently used to target peaceful critics of the regime.

Long’s son Long Shaoteng said the charges related to posts his father had made to Twitter and Facebook that were judged to have “slandered and insulted” China’s leaders and its ruling party.

“I think the sentence was too harsh, because there was no serious harm done to society,” he said. “It was just words and retweets, and to sentence him to such a long term just for retweeting stuff is beyond belief.”

Long’s verdict and sentence were announced following a secret trial, and come amid an ever-widening crackdown on any speech relating to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A source familiar with the case surnamed Liu said Long was exercising his basic constitutional rights.

“There was no public trial, and Long’s own son wasn’t allowed to attend, only his defense lawyer was allowed in,” Liu said.

“It was said that he had insulted China’s leaders and the Communist Party, but this official rhetoric is unacceptable to the people, because citizens are supposed to have freedom of speech under the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China,” she said.

Long, a native of the western province of Gansu, had come to live in Baoji fairly recently, where the authorities had put him under surveillance for online comments judged to be attacks on the regime, and Xi in particular.

He had previously been held for 15 days’ administrative detention, a sentence that can be handed down by police to perceived “troublemakers” without a trial.

The authorities also put political pressure on Long’s family to “encourage” him to “confess” and plead guilty.

“They didn’t say why, but they just said that he could keep doing this stuff, saying these things,” Long Shaoteng said. “They said it wouldn’t be good for me in various ways, for example, in getting married, finding a job … or if I wanted to leave the country at some point.”

“They said I wouldn’t be able to work for a state-owned company, for sure.”

Long’s defense attorney Zhang Lei declined to comment on the case when contacted by RFA.