Singer's fake bomb threat sparks debate
Updated: 2013-08-03 03:30
By ZHAO YINAN (China Daily)
Discussion online about terrorism threats and harmless jokes has continued in China, after outspoken singer Wu Hongfei was released by police on Friday after posting a fake bomb threat online.
Wu, lead singer of the rock band Happy Avenue, was released on Friday, after a 10-day administrative detention and a 500-yuan ($81) fine.
Wu Hongfei, lead singer of the rock band Happy Avenue.
She was detained and placed under criminal detention on July 23 after threatening to bomb a government building and a residential committee in Beijing on her Sina Weibo micro blog on July 21.
The threats were posted the morning after a man in a wheelchair set off a bomb at the Beijing Capital International Airport, injuring himself.
Wu's penalty was later changed to administrative detention — a much lighter punishment.
People placed in criminal detention are likely to face criminal charges, while those deemed guilty of minor offenses are normally held in administrative detention. People can be held in administrative detention for up to 15 days without a trial or criminal charges being filed.
Zhan Jiang, a professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said law enforcement agencies should not trample on freedom of speech while regulating hate speech.
Zhan added that Wu's detention has raised questions about whether the police overreacted after a harmless joke.
Zhan said that Wu's bomb threat, joke or not, was "serious misconduct" and should be "harshly criticized", especially at a time when police in Beijing are under great pressure.
But he noted that mounting pressure to safeguard public order is not an excuse to abuse power.
"Financial punishment, instead of detention, may be more suitable," Zhan said.
Before and after Wu's detention, several violent incidents happened in the country. Similar fake bomb threats were posted online, prompting public security authorities to vow to "severely punish" those who threaten to start fires, set off bombs or make bogus terrorist threats.
In a statement on Friday, Wu thanked the public, including experts and lawyers, who called for her release for the last 10 days. She said the appeals prevented "further suffering".
She added her detention "might be due to the sensitive time" in Beijing and that her "seemingly improper words" have had some impact.
Wu said that the detention procedures of the police are "open to question", indicating her disagreement with the detention.
She added she will likely travel to southern China and stay there for a while, as her landlord urged her to move out when she returned home on Friday.