Update – for translations of Liu Xiaoyuan’s blog posts following the trial, check John Kennedy’s post on Global Voices.
Three bloggers from Fujian who had spread information online relating to the case of Yan Xiaoling were found guilty of slander yesterday. AP reported that self-taught legal expert Fan Yanqiong received a two year sentence, whilst two others, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying, will each spend one year in prison.
Their sentences stem from a filmed interview with Yan Xiaoling’s mother, Lin Xiuying, in which she claims her daughter had been gang-raped and murdered by police in 2008. Meanwhile, police in Fujian’s Mingqin county ruled that the 25-year-old had died from an abnormal pregnancy. The footage was posted online and spread rampantly, leading to several netizens’ arrests from June 2009.
Netizens and activists have since been closely following the trial’s developments. Last month, supporters gathered outside the Fuzhou courthouse in anticipation of the long-awaited verdict, which was subsequently postponed after a court session that had apparently “lasted only a minute.” Support for the trio was also palpable yesterday, with estimates between several hundred and 2,000 people showing up outside the courthouse. Tweets were sent as events unfolded, which were reposted on absent bloggers’ sites to rally further support.
It remains unclear, however, who the trio were guilty of slandering. Their lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan, slammed the verdict:
The court said the three people’s actions have seriously affected the interest of the state, which is laughable. It infringes on the people’s freedom of speech, which is the legal right of citizens.
The events are another example of how the spread of information online, mixed with growing contentions in China’s society, can create a significant concoction. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the PRC has recently set up a new bureau to monitor netizens’ use of social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook.
The cat and mouse game continues.