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China rock-band singer arrested for threat post on microblog

Press Trust of India  |  Beijing 

A female singer of a rock band in was arrested after she posted a message in her microblog website threatening to blow up government offices, apparently to vent her anger against authorities.

Wu Hongfei a lead singer of rock band "Happy Avenue", was taken into custody on suspicion of "fabricating fake information", a crime that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, official media here reported.

Wu, a former journalist known for her candid criticism of the government, wrote on Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter) on July 21 saying she wanted to blow up a residential committee in and the Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, an agency responsible for urban housing management, official media here reported.

Her lawyers contended that the singer was only venting her anger about her personal experience with a government agency, Hong Kong's South Morning Post said.

She did not say in her post why she singled out these government offices, and no explanation has been given since, state run Daily reported.

Significantly her comments were posted soon after Ji Zhongxing, the wheelchair-bound man who detonated an explosive device at airport this month to highlight his plight after being paralysed in police beating.

Wu deleted the post in her blog on July 22 but not before it went viral on the net with hundreds of forwards.

Two lawyers representing a singer issued a statement stating that her words did not constitute a crime.

Li Jinxing, one of Wu's lawyers, told the Global Times that Wu deleted the post after several hours and, although her post was angry, her words did not actually harm anyone.

Li who is due to meet her today said she should make a not-guilty plea.

"I think this case is of great significance, and it will become a landmark lawsuit in drawing a line between the freedom of speech online and committing a crime," he said.

"This is a very important case to clarify the difference between the freedom of speech on the Internet and a crime," Li said.

Meanwhile, her "criminal detention" has ignited discussions on the Internet over whether Wu's post could or should be considered as a terrorist threat.

A Sina Weibo vote with more than 27,000 participants 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, Global Times report said.

First Published: Mon, July 29 2013. 15:00 IST