L’erba del vicino: 16enne arrestato in cina per il reato di “essere stato retwittato”

Where the crime of retweeting can land you in jail.

Two weeks ago, Yang Hui was summoned from class by his school’s
vice-principal, according to an account the student provided to the Beijing News.
The 16-year-old quickly learnt that he was in serious trouble. Three
plainclothes and a uniformed police officer were waiting in the
principal’s office. They asked for his phone, interrogated him, conveyed
him to the police station for further questioning and then locked him
up in a detention centre.

His apparent crime? He was retweeted.

This is a novel transgression. Early this month, officials
announced new regulations meant to rein in the allegedly rampant
rumour-mongering that the government claims disrupts the harmonious
development of China’s internet.

Few in China believe the new rules are much more than the
latest and most heavy-handed attempt to check online dissent and
reassert government control over how China thinks, talks and tweets
about its leaders. The terms stipulate that anyone whose message is
retweeted more than 500 times on Chinese microblogs or is seen by more
than 5000 online users can be subject to jail for up to three years if
the original post turns out to be false. As tools of repression go, this
is a powerful one, and Yang’s experience – and the public outcry that
followed it – highlight its strengths and limitations.

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