04/17/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing blogger sentenced to 3 years for "spreading rumors" online

Qin Zhihui is the first victim of the law passed in September 2013 against micro-blogs, increasingly active in denouncing corruption and scandals . The courts have handed down the sentence without investigating allegations of defamation brought against the blogger .

Beijing ( AsiaNews) - A Beijing District Court in this morning sentenced a blogger to three years in prison on charges of having "slandered and collected items to cause unrest". Qin Zhihui is the first victim of the new law on freedom of expression, which was approved in September 2013 by the government, which effectively gagged internet and its users. The sentence was reported by CCTV, the national television.

The judges claim, Qin " impacted society and seriously harmed social order" by posting a series of inaccurate reports on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter widely used by dissidents and ordinary citizens to publicize injustices and denounce political scandals and social issues. According to the indictment, the blogger took bribes from some industries to discredit their business rivals: Qin pleaded guilty and "apologized for his crimes".

According to activists and media experts, even if the man were really guilty of slander and defamation of business rivals, it is "dangerous and unfair" that the judges have decided to implement the new law on freedom of expression . The court in fact did not investigate the charges, but convicted him for "spreading rumors".

On 9 September 2013, the People's Supreme Court and the Central Prosecutor's Office issued a legal interpretation that allows authorities to jail for up to a maximum of 3 years those who "write defamatory messages that are re-posted 500 times or more" online. The fear, in leading Chinese circles, is that the Party will follow path of the Soviet Union if people are given freedom to protest. The text also allows "more serious penalties" for those who use the Internet "to provoke mass protests, ethnic or religious clashes, creating damage to the image of the country or harm China at the international level".

The blogosphere is being increasingly used by the Chinese population to publish complaints against corrupt officials, illegal expropriation of land, human rights abuses . The government is trying to curb this trend through a special body of cyber agents , but this effort is increasingly becoming a mission impossible.

 

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