The Case of Yan Xiaoling

(IDG News Service)  China Detains Internet Users Who Wrote on Scandal   By Owen Fletcher.  July 16, 2009.

Provincial Chinese police have detained at least five people over content posted online that alleged gang-rape and murder at a police-backed brothel.

The detentions add to a long string of cases in which Chinese police have taken bloggers or other Internet users into custody for writing online about government corruption. The events also show how Chinese Internet users have sometimes used the Web to reveal and trumpet injustices, and how the government has worked to control online opinion when it turns critical of authority.

The five people have all been detained on defamation charges in the weeks since text and video accounts of the scandal spread on popular Chinese Web forums, lawyers for two of the detained people said Thursday. A sixth person, writing on Twitter from a mobile phone early Thursday, claimed to have been taken away by police in the same municipal district of Fuzhou, Fujian province, where the other detentions occurred.

Articles posted online last month gave a mother's account of how a gang member called her 25-year-old daughter, Yan Xiaoling, and ordered her to come out to meet. The woman found her daughter dead in the hospital the next day and was told she had been raped by up to eight people before dying, according to the articles.

Police held a press conference the day after the articles appeared online and were widely re-posted. An official denied any violence or rape and said Yan had died of bleeding caused by a failed pregnancy, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. The official also denied any police ties to the gangster or to a prostitution-peddling karaoke joint owned by him, both allegations made in the online accounts.

But within days, police began detaining Internet users they seemed to suspect of writing the online accounts. Police have said that the defamation charges stem from the online materials, Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer for one of the detainees, said by phone. Police also told Liu that his client's case touched on state secrets, Liu said.

Liu and Lin Hongnan, a lawyer for another of the detainees, have both been denied visits with their clients, Lin said. Lin's client has been detained for over two weeks. "That's a long time," Lin said.

The Twitter user who claimed to have been detained on Thursday had written earlier messages on the service about the rape case, including one that linked to a video of the victim's mother speaking.

Police in the district where the detentions occurred refused to answer questions by phone.

Discussion of the detentions appeared to be monitored in Chinese forums. One Twitter user said all of his posts on the issue were deleted from, a popular forum.

Addendum: In Liu Xiaoyuan's blog post, the New Express reporter called up the Mawei public security bureau and was told by a worker at the Legal System Team of the public security bureau that the reporter has no right to know about the situation of the case.

In order for you to understand this case, you should read the original post as well as the response from the authorities.

Here is the original post in translation:

Important points: The Lige KTV is located in the Minqing county Cultural Museum across the street from the Minqing County Hospital.  It is a joint venture by the Minqing county public security bureau deputy director and Meicheng criminal investigation division chief Li Zongying, the public safety department director Lu Yanding, the county procuratorate prosecutor named Tu and a known criminal named Nie Zhixiong who has a long criminal record as well as a history of getting away.  This entertainment venue sells ketamine powder, runs prostitution, forces women to become prostitutes and obtains commissions.  The basement in the building to the right of the television station is an auxiliary facility for the Lige KTV, where these remorseless criminal elements act out their animal instincts.  Coincidence or not, there have been many nameless female corpses on the streets of this city ever since this KTV began business ...

49-year-old petitioner Lin Xiuying lives at Number 563, Meixidong Road, Meicheng town, Minqing county, Fujian province.  When she talked about the death of her 25-year-old daughter Yan Xiaoling due to gang-rape by the police and the criminals, she was still crying from the unbearable pain.  The following is the truthful recording by this writer based upon the narration and written materials of Lin Xiuying about this piece of tragic history that she had no way of making known --

1. The mother and daughter fought before the incident

On the 28th day of the twelfth month of the Lunar Year in 2007, Yan Xiaoling was taken by Nie Zhixiong and a dozen companions to celebrate the New Year at a villa called Taishan.  When she got home, she was restless all day.  She repeatedly told her mother Lin Xiuying things such as: "For the sake of the lives of my two younger brothers, I cannot leave them."  "If I don't go, they will come to our home."  And so on.  This made the uneducated Lin Xiuying very scared and helpless.  The only thing that she could do was to stop her daughter from going out.

At around 2pm on February 10, 2008, Nie Zhixiong once again called Yan Xiaoling to go out.  This girl who had lost her father early in life was exceedingly terrified, and her mother Lin Xiuying was scared as well and forbade her daughter to go out.  But by this time, Yan Xiaoling was under the mental control of Nie Zhixiong who has connections in law enforcement and she would never think of "calling the police" because of concerns for the safety of her family.

At past 10pm, Nie Zhixiong called again to tell her to hurry up.  This time, Yan Xiaoling sneaked out when her mother was not paying attention.  When Lin Xiuying realized that she had left, she called the mobile phone for more than 20 times but the phone was offline.  Lin Xiuying could not sleep that night.

2. The death of Yan Xiaoling.

The next day at past 10pm on February 11, 2009, Nie Zhixiong and two police officers suddenly showed up before the sleepless Lin Xiuying and took her to the hospital in a black sedan car.  When she got out of the car, she saw two more police officers waiting.  At the sight, Lin Xiuying became extremely scared!  At that moment, two nurses pointed to a female corpse and asked: "Is this your daughter?"

Upon hearing those words, Lin Xiuying went numb in her hands and feet.  She took a look and saw a female corpse that wore only pajamas, had messed up hair, held an hideous look with teeth tightly clenched.  There were several clear black scratch marks on the wrists.  When Lin Xiuying saw this, she passed out ...

When Lin Xiuying came to, she heard the doctors and nurses say: "This girl suffered a horrible, horrible death!"  "She was not even wearing any panties or bra."  "The vagina was stretched wide apart."  "There was still sperm in the vagina."  "She was gang-raped by at least five or six people.  They even raped the corpse after she died."

This was no doubt an atrocious gang rape case!  Yet, the public security bureau did not think so.

3.  The public security bureau said that they cannot make an arrest without an medical examination, but it will cost 5,000 RMB to conduct one (and they even asked for 50,000 or 60,000 RMB)

On the day after the incident, February 12, 2008, Lin Xiuying went early in the morning to ask the public security bureau to arrest Nie Zhixiong and others.  She also asked to obtain her daughter's mobile phone and address book back because they contain evidence that Nie Zhixiong and others forced her daughter to prostitute herself.  But Lin Xiuying was surprised that for a major crime such as this one, the public security bureau said: "We cannot arrest them without the results of a medical examination."  Immediately this was followed by: "You have to pay 5,000 RMB in order to get the medical examiner to conduct an examination."  Then they even asked her to "bring 50,000 RMB or 60,000 RMB for the medical examination."

4. The public security bureau excised Yan Xiaoling's uterus and told her family afterwards that she had died from an ectopic pregnancy.

On the afternoon of February 13, 2009, Li Xiuying asked the witness Wei Mengxuan to note that he had personally observed that the uterus of Yan Xiaoling had tear marks and her wrists had scratch marks.  But Wei Mengxuan declined because "he was there only to look for wounds made by fists or knives, and therefore not concerned with the uterus or scratches."  Then Wei Mengxuan forced Lin Xiuying to put her fingerprints on the notes that he had written.  Lin Xiuying realized that Wei Mengxuan did so in order to cover up the truth about the death of her daughter, and therefore she cried.

On February 14, 2009, Lin Xiuying and her relatives once again asked the public security bureau to record the mutilated uterus and the scratch marks on the wrists.  The public security bureau worker wrote an application for the family of Lin Xiuying to file.

On February 16, 2009, the younger son of Lin Xiuying went to the public security bureau to ask the legal examiner to conduct an autopsy without success.  So he went to the hospital to look at the body of his sister.  As soon as he stepped inside the morgue, he was astounded to find that someone had excised the uterus and threw it in a red plastic bucket.  He was then notified that Yan Xiaoling had died from an ectopic pregnancy.

5. The father of Nie Zhixiong said: Eight people took part in the gang-rape

On the day after the incident, a kind-hearted person told Lin Xiuying secretly that Yan Xiaoling had been gang-raped by eight persons to death.  The person who said that was none other than the father of Nie Zhixiong.

6. No place to go

It has been more than one year since the murder occurred.  Lin Xiuying has petitioned various departments, including the various county departments, the various city departments, the various provincial departments and even to Beijing.  But nobody paid any attention.  The body of Yan Xiaoling has been placed in cold storage since.

7.  Emergency appeal to save young women

The Lige KTV in Minqing county, Fujian province -- this is an entertainment venue which reaps high profits by selling ketamine powder, running prostitution and coercing women to become prostitutes to satisfy lusty men.  How many young women have been victimized?  How many young women have suffered fates like Yan Xiaoling or even worse?  Thus, I am making an emergency appeal to the relevant state departments to immediately form a special case squad to rescue those young women who are being victimized by the police and the criminals and to severely publish those police and criminals who have no conscience

(  Public disclosure of the truth of the Yan Xiaoling case.  June 25, 2009.

On the afternoon of June 25, the Fujian province Fuzhou city public security bureau held a press conference to report on the progress of the investigation of this case.  According to the police, Yan Xiaoling died from hemorrhagic shock from an ectopic pregnancy.  There was no issue of death by violence, drug overdose or gang rape.

Clarification #1: Nie Zhixiong and Yan Xiaoling were cohabitating

According to the police investigation, on the night of February 10, Yan Xiaoling left home to go to the Lige KTV with Nie Zhixiong.  At around 2am on the next morning, Yan Xiaoling began to have a stomach ache.  At 6pm, on February 10, Nie Zhixiong went out to drink and left a friend named Lin to take care of Yan Xiaoling.  At around 10pm that night, Lin noticed that Yan Xiaoling was in pain.  So he told her to the county hospital emergency room and informed the mother Lin Xiuying about the condition of her daughter.

Nie Zhixiong is 33 years old, a married man and a drug abuser.  The deceased Yan Xiaoling became acquainted with Nie Zhixiong in 1998.  In late 2007, Yan Xiaoling rented a studio room at Room 102, Number 40, Nanbei Avenue, Meicheng town.  Nie Zhixiong was paying the monthly rent.  The two were co-habitating.  On March 7, the police arrested Nie Zhixiong and placed him under labor reform for drug abuse.  Nie is presently detained at the Fuzhou city labor reform station.

Clarification #2: The deceased died from an ectopic pregnancy

"The post emphasized repeatedly that the deceased died from gang-rape.  There is no factual basis for this."  On February 12, 2008, the family of Yan Xiaoling applied to the Minqing county public security bureau for an autopsy to determine the cause of death of Yan Xiaoling.  The county public security bureau medical examiner conducted an autopsy and found no obvious external injuries, no bleeding under the skin and no broken bones.

On March 3, the provincial public security bureau made the medical determination that the cause of death was complications due to an ectopic pregnancy.  The Fuzhou public security bureau also made tests and found no drugs in the blood stream and no sperm in the vagina.  For this reason, the county public security bureau made the determination as a result of the medical examination results: Yan Xiaoling had died from hemorrhagic shock due to a rupture from a ectopic pregnancy.

Clarification #3: No police held shares in the Lige KTV

According to the Internet post, "The Lige KTV is a joint venture by Minqing county public security bureau deputy director and Meicheng criminal investigation division chief Lin XX, public safety department chief Lu XX, county procuratorate prosecutor Tu XX and a known criminal leader Nie Zhixiong who has an extensive criminal record."  The police said that ever since the Lige KTV began business in January 15, 2008 to now, the three shareholders have always been Lin Guofei, Fang Conglin and Chen Lina.  Nobody from the Minqing public security bureau or procuratorate held any shares in the Lige KTV.  Nie Zhixiong does not know Lin Guofei or Fang Conglin and he does not hold any shares in the Lige KTV either.

Clarification #4: The relevant departments have made 20 visits.

Lin Xiuying was dissatisfied with the medical examination results from the province, city and county medical examiners.  She has made many petitions because she thought that the medical examination results were wrong and that the public security bureau and Nie Zhixiong must pay compensation.  The county party committee, the county government and the county public security bureau have paid this matter a high degree of attention and organized their workers to talk to Lin Xiuying.

Since April 1, 2008, the Minqing county public security bureau has written Lin Xiuying many times about the medical examination results from the provincial, city and county medical examiners: First, Yan Xiaoling died from hemorrhaging shock from an ectopic pregnancy with no issue of death due to violence, drug overdose or gang rape, and therefore this is not a criminal vase.  Secondly, the issue of compensation can be addressed via civil lawsuits filed at the court. Thirdly, if there are any practical issues about livelihood, the public security bureau was willing to assist the petitioner by contacting the party committee and the government.

(China News)  Fujian police: The "Yan Xiaoling was gang-raped to death" post had a writer behind the scene.  June 25, 2009.

"Fujian (Minqing)'s Yan Xiaoling is ten thousand times more tragic than Deng Yujiao!"  "Tragic beyond belief: Anonymous female corpses show up frequently in Minqing, Yan Xiaoling was gang-raped to death by eight persons."  From June 23 onwards, these posts began to appear at the NetEase Forum, the Miscellaneous Chat, the Phoenix Forum and other Internet forums.  How did this post appear and get spread around?

This post characterized the death of Yan Xiaoling as "tragic beyond belief."  The mother Lin Xiuying claimed that when she saw a female corpse wearing only pajamas, hair all messed up, wearing a hideous look with teeth closely clenched.  Several black scratch marks also caught the eye.  The doctors and nurses were saying: "This girl died a horrible, horrible death!"  "She wasn't even wearing panties and bra."  "She was gang-raped by at least five or six persons.  They even raped her after she was dead ..."

The post also claimed: "When Lin Xiuying's young son went to the public security bureau to get a medical examination, he was unsuccessful.  So he went to the county hospital to view his sister's body.  When he entered the morgue, he was surprised to find that his sister's uterus had been excised by someone who threw it into a red plastic bucket.  He was then told that Yan Xiaoling died from an ectopic pregnancy."

"No conscience!"  "The murderers must be found and tortured by a thousand knife cuts!"  This post spread quickly around the forums and drew many comments and discussions.  Many netizens were very astonished that something like this could occur in Minqing.  They supported a thorough investigation in order to deliver justice to the family of the deceased.

According to the information from the police, the story was first published at an overseas Forum.  From the evening of June 23, netizens began to cross-post at NetEase Forum, the Miscellaneous Chat, Phoenix Forum, Economic Observer Net, Anti-Corruption Forum (the preceding are based in Beijing), Tianya Forum (based in Haikou, Hainan), Mala Community (based in Chengdu, Sichuan), China Forum (based in Langfang, Hebei), Kaidi Community (based in Shanghai) and elsewhere.  As of 10:00am on June 24, there were 28 different posts about "Minqing Yan Xiaoling" of which four have been deleted.

At 16:00 yesterday, this reporter entered "Minqing Yan Xiaoling" into Baidu and retrieved almost 12,000 related items.  They seemed to have high page view rates.

"The post was first published at an overseas website.  It was gradually cross-posted by netizens at various mainland Chinese websites to draw attention."

According to Fuzhou public security bureau information office spokesperson Liu Ming, the initial post on "Minqing Yan Xiaoling" was determined via IP tracing to have been made at an overseas website.

So who published that initial post?  Yesterday morning, the reporter followed the contact information left on that post to call Yan Xiaoling's mother Lin Xiuying.  She said that she did not write that post but she provided the content.

"A person who specialized in filing complaints helped me post in on the Internet."  She said that she has not had much education.  During the process of complaining, someone took pity and helped her write down the content.  But she had no idea that this information was posted on the Internet.  When the reporter asked to contact this person who helped her, she said that she is out of of home and therefore does not have the contact information with her.

At 7pm last evening, the reporter called Lin Xiuying again.  But her mobile phone was shut off.

The reporter then read the post carefully again.  The post was fluently written.  It deliberately created linkage with the red-hot case of Deng Yujiao in Badong in order to draw social attention.  But the post was very vague about the sources of many of the relevant facts.  The entire post was based upon what Lin Xiuying said and contained no other evidence.  For example, the "gang rape by eight persons" was based upon solely upon one statement.

"This post completely ignores the facts and reverses black and white."  Yesterday at the police press conference, Liu Ming said that the person who wrote the post did not really try to understand the facts and made no investigation about the story in the post.

Comments from experts

Wuhan University School of Journalism and Communication professor Shi Yibin said: Popular Internet stories are "red-hot" because the anonymity of the Internet reduces the restrictions from rules of ethics when compared to traditional media.  People can express themselves more freely and boldly.  The Internet also goes beyond geographical boundaries and the global discussion carries more influence as well as uncertainty.

Under these circumstances, when a hot incident occurs, the rumors are going to get worse if the government departments decide to be evasive.  Those people who don't know the truth will raise their doubts on the Internet and believe in as well as disseminate inaccurate information.

Lanzhou University School of Journalism and Communication professor Shi Shu said: To suppress the communication of rumors, there has to be scientifically accurate information coming from more authoritative and more trustworthy channels, such that they are even more powerful in the domains where the rumors exist.  This work should be done by the government and the media.  "As the administrators of society, the government has the duty and obligation to allocate resources to investigate the incident immediately and then take the corresponding measures while revealing all the known information known through the media."

Contemporary culture research expert and Beijing Normal University School of Literature professor Zhang Ning said: As a public communication media, the Internet is like a street that people walk on.  There are good people as well as bad people on the street, and it is the same on the Internet where there is beneficial information as well as harmful information.  As a communication media that came into being in the late 20th century, the Internet does more good than harm.  It provides plenty of good information for education, work and life, so that people have greater convenience and speed in their lives.

Forum webmasters are required to monitor the Internet posts.  When a webmaster reads a post, he should take the attitude that "the civilian is innocent."  If the post is accurate, it serves a good watchdog function; if the post is fake, the public security department can use the relevant laws to hold the author legally responsible.  In the case of the Yan Xiaoling affair, the author released fake information and the public security department can hold him/her accountable.

Comments from lawyers

Fujian Bamin Lawyers Office lawyer Li Zhuo said: Based upon the published information from the author, many facts were completely different from the investigation results of the public security bureau.  It seemed that some of the information was fabricated.  The action of the author has caused a bad impact on the local police.  From this viewpoint, his actions constitute libel already.

When someone releases harmful information on the Internet leading to bad influence and creating negative impact on the reputation of the victims, it is possible to seek civic legal redress.  If someone maliciously fabricated information in order to attract netizen attention or vent their unhappiness with others such that severe consequences entail, his actions may be construed as libel and judged as a crime.  According to Chinese law, this may lead to three years or less in jail sentence, detention, house arrest and/or deprivation of political rights.

(The Guardian)  Silence after China blogger amoiist tweets arrest SOS   By Tania Branigan.  July 17, 2009.

The hundreds following amoiist on Twitter were used to his stream of messages. But they ended abruptly with two terse updates early yesterday morning.

"I have been arrested by Mawei police, SOS" he wrote. Then shortly afterwards: "Pls help me, I grasp the phone during police sleep."

His followers quickly passed on his plea to other Twitterers. But since then there has been silence from amoiist V also known as Peter Guo, or Guo Bofeng V who is apparently the latest internet user to be caught up in an inquiry that began with claims of defamation but which police now say involves "state secrecy issues".

As many as seven bloggers have been detained over claims that a 25-year-old woman, Yan Xiaoling, had been gang-raped and murdered. It was further alleged that the man responsible was connected to local authorities in her city in Fujian province, southern China.

Officials dismissed the stories, which first surfaced in late June, and insisted Yan had suffered a haemorrhage caused by an ectopic pregnancy. They turned their attention to tracking down those they suspected were responsible for the stories.

According to Global Voices Online, Guo posted an interview with Yan's mother in which she repeated the claims and accused local authorities of a cover-up.

An employee at Mawei police station told the Guardian: "These cases are in the process of investigation. We are not in charge of the case so we can't tell you more. We will release information if there is progress."

The case is testament both to the growing ability of Chinese citizens to share information through the internet, and to the restrictions on those who do.

In a recent, unpublished interview with the Guardian over the government's Green Dam censorship programme, Guo said: "The significance of internet in China is huge. It can't change the current situation in China right away, but it has deeply influenced China. Through the internet, Chinese society has become more and more diverse, and more importantly many people who are unaware of the truth have started to hear different voices."

Guo, who described himself on Twitter as "a trouble maker in Amoy [Xiamen], living with character sales", is reportedly a professional interpreter. His two calls for help were in English, although he generally uses Chinese.

He often blogs and tweets about news, current affairs and internet censorship, frequently with a satirical tinge, and has more than 1,500 Twitter followers. A message posted several hours before his pleas read: "Peter Guo, one of the twitterers in China, originally from the Fujian countryside, not a famous blogger; people called him amoiist, good character, young, handsome."

Liu Xiaoyuan, who represents another detained blogger, You Jingyou, said lawyers had been told they could not meet their clients because the case involved "state secrets".

Liu's client wrote his power of attorney in advance because he feared he might be the next to be detained. Another man who was away when police visited his home yesterday told Liu he believed they planned to detain him.

The lawyer said: "I do not know why exactly [You] was detained. Whether it is because he wrote something or he spread something or planned something is still unknown. But from the police we know it was connected to the Yan Xiaoling case." He said bloggers had been held more frequently in the last two years. "I think it is because the internet's power is getting bigger and bigger and the internet uncovers many issues so the authorities get more pressure."

Another lawyer told the Xinkuaibao newspaper that if officials had been libelled they should sue the bloggers involved rather than launching a criminal case. "We can tell that the local officials haven't caught up with the need for the development of open information and the internet. They have not adapted to it and feel it is a big deal if some bad information appears on the net."

Twitter is blocked in China but many on the mainland still tweet through a variety of means.

(Strait Metropolis Daily)  The Case of Yan Xiaoling:  Three Netizens Suspected Of Making False Accusations.  September 2, 2009.

The death of a woman named Yan Xiaoling in Mingqing county was amazingly turned into an Internet post that was circulated broadly on the Internet more than one year later.  Afterwards, the Fuzhou police detained eight netziens who made posts on the Internet.  Among the eight, three are still being held at the detention center and they may be charged with making false accusations.  The other five are currently out on bail.  This Internet case has once again drew public attention.

The post from the netizens told a very tragic story: Yan Xiaoling was threatened by a crime syndicate in Mingqing county and she was then gang-raped to death by eight persons.  When she died, her vagina was ripped and her face showed a hideous expression.  When her family tried to seek justice, the local public security units interfered and intimidated them.  It turned out that the gang leader was a crime gang boss who collaborated with local law enforcement officials to open a KTV ... this post disseminated quickly among the netizens.  People on the Internet were outraged.  The police immediately held a press conference to clarify matters, but the storm did not die down.  Recently our reporter investigated the roles played by these netizens and the reasons why many netizens refused to believe the information released by the police.

In this Mingqing case, the Internet rumor and the statement from the public security bureau were two completely opposite versions.  In the two phases of the debate, the credibility of the police was challenged ... in the views of many people, the death of Yan Xiaoling was a mysterious case.  The "mystery" was that the civilian and official versions were completely different, so that people feel perplexed.

In June this year, Internet posts titled "Yan Xiaoling of Mingqing is ten thousand times more tragic than Deng Yuqiao of Badong" and "Tragic beyond belief: frequent nameless female corpses show up in Mingqing, Yan Xiaoling was gang-raped to death by eight persons" began to show up in forums and QQ groups.  This story quickly became a hot issue for discussion.  The posts told a story.  In this story, there are four distinguishing points that drew attention: First, 25-year-old Yan Xialoling was gang-raped by eight persons and suffered a terrible death.  Secondly, the gang leader was named Nie Zhixiong.  He was the boyfriend of Yan Xiaoling and a leader of a local crime syndicate.  There was no way the deceased and her family could fight back.  Thirdly, local law enforcement officers and the murderers owned and operated a KTV named Lige.  This is a KTV which sells ketamine powder and forces women to prostitute themselves.  It is a way for the owners to make money as well as have access to women.  Ever since the Lige KTV opened up, there have been many anonymous female corpses found in the county.  Fourthly, since important members of law enforcement agencies were in business with the murderers, the police did everything they could to make the family members shut up.  This was a case of gross injustice.

In the posts, the death of Yan Xiaoling was linked via comparison with the well-known Internet case of Deng Yuqiao.  This drew a lot of attention.

On June 24, the Fuzhou public security bureau held an emergency press conference.  The police clarified on a point-by-point basis.  They said that the death of Yan Xiaoling was normal and not a crime at all.

During the press conference, the police made the following points of clarification.  First, the forensic doctor determined that Yan Xiaoling died from an ectopic pregnancy.  She had not been raped.  Secondly, they denied that any members of the Mingqing public security organizations and prosecutorial office were in partnership at the Lige KTV.  They said that Nie Zhixiong was a social idler but not a crime gang leader.  He has no law enforcement background and he is not a partner at the Lige KTV either.  Thirdily, the case was not "shut down" as Yan Xiaoling's mother Lin Xiuying asserted.  Instead, the Mingqing county party committee, the county government and the county public security bureau have visited Lin Xiuying more than twenty times at home to do "thought education."

At the time, many media outlets in Fujian province and the rest of China reported these clarifications from the police.  But more questions were raised on the Internet.  The focii of Internet opinions shifted from sympathy for Yan Xiaoling and the emotional outbursts against the police for being involved with gang leaders to the doubts and denials about the police clarifications, thus supporting the original posts indirectly.

The main focii of the Internet doubts were the following:

1. Since the police said that Yan Xiaoling died as a result of severe hemorrhaging caused by an ectopic pregnancy.  So how old was the embryo?  What was its size?  What not tell us?

2. The police investigation only determined that no human sperm was found in the vagina of Yan Xiaoling.  But this does not preclude the possibility that she was sexually assaulted before her death.  Could sexual violence have caused the uterus to rupture?

3. Who brought Yan Xiaoling to the hospital and then vanished?  Why was nothing said about this person?

4. If Yan died a normal death, why did the doctors at the hospital call the police?

5. It is rumored that there was financial linkage between the Lige KTV and the Mingqing public security bureau.  Why did the local public security bureau not excuse itself from the investigation?

During the process of gathering information, the reporter found that the principal contents of the Yan Xiaoling case were based upon the narrative from her mother Lin Xiuying.  Lin believes that her daughter was gang-raped to death.  Concerning this assertion of "gang-raped to death," our reporter went to Mingqing to conduct an investigation of the cause of death for Yan Xiaoling.

Doubt Number 1: Gang-raped to death, or ectopic pregnancy?

Lin Xiuying said that Yan Xiaoling was gang-raped to death.  The police said that she died from an ectopic pregnancy.  So which version represents the truth?  Yu Shifeng is the forensic doctor for the Mingqing county public security bureau.  He was the first to examine the body of Yan Xiaoling.  According to Yu, it was around 10pm or so on February 11 last year that Yan Xiaoling was pronounced dead at the Mingqing County Hospital when efforts to resuscitate her failed.  Since there was nobody accompanying her at the time, the hospital informed the police.  Thus he became the first forensic doctor to examine Yan's body.

On February 12, he conducted an examination of Yan's body and recorded the preliminary examination results: he did not observe any superficial wounds on the body, there were not contusions and the skull and body did not have any broken bones.

On February 13, at the request of Yan's family, Yu conducted an autopsy of Yan's body.  He opened the skull, chest and stomach.  The first two body parts were normal, but there was a large amount of blood in the latter (about 2,500 milliliters).  As a result, he made the preliminary determination: the deceased may have died as a result of massive internal bleeding.

Yu then found the point of bleeding in Yan's blody -- on the left Fallopian tube, there was a wound that measured 0.8 millimeters by 1.0 millimeters.  He determined from this that the cause of death was a rupture of the Fallopian tube from an ectopic pregnancy that led to massive internal bleeding.  But in order to confirm this, he was missing a very important item -- the embryo.  He said that the embryo could be very small and buried among the accumulated blood.  He did not have the laboratory facilities to confirm the existence of the embryo.

At around 1pm on February 13, in the presence of five family members including the mother and the younger brother, Yu Shifeng extracted the heart, the contents of the vagina, the contents of the stomach, the uterus, the Fallopian tubes and other body organs to forward to the Evidence Testing Centre of the Fujian provincial public security bureau and the Fuzhou city Criminal Scientific Investigation Institute for certain pathology, chemical and biological testing.  The test results showed that the cause of death can exclude violence or poisoning.  Since there were no human sperm found in the vagina, Yan was determined to have died from a rupture of the Fallopian tube as a result of a pregnancy.

The problem that Yu Shifeng had for "not being able to find the embryo" was solved by the testing done by the higher levels of public security bureau.  The Fuzhou city public security bureau crime scientific investigative unit deputy director named Weng told the reporter that the Fujian provincial public security bureau conducted a pathology examination of the left Fallopian tube sent over by Mingqing county and found the fine tissues of the embryo near the rupture wound.  This confirmed that an embryo had existed in the Fallopian tube.  The cause of death of Yan Xiaoling was therefore caused by massive internal bleeding due to a rupture of the Fallopian tube caused by an ectopic pregnancy.

Deputy director Weng added the that the core issue of the embryo could not be located.  But it was possible that it had been carried away into the stomach when the massive bleeding occurred.  The forensic doctor was therefore unable to determine the age or size of the embryo.

However, Yan Xiaoling's mother did not believe that her daughter was pregnant because she had her period a few days before her death.  The Fujian province Children and Women Health Clinic gynecology department director Chen Xiujun told the reporter that an ectopic pregnancy is an accidental pregnancy.  Instead of being inside the uterus, the embryo showed up in the Fallopian tube instead.  The wall lining of the Fallopian tube is much thinner than that of the uterus.  As the embryo grows, it will eventually burst the wall of the Fallopian tube, thus causing massive internal bleeding.

Doubt Number 2: Violent attack before her death?

What did Yan Xiaoling undergo before she died?  Apart from the direct cause of death being the ectopic pregnancy, was there violence?  The reporter confronts these common Internet questions.

The reporter learned that the police had informed Yan Xiaoling's mother Lin Xiuying about the conclusions of the final autopsy report.  However, Lin Xiuying raised some questions and these became the key points for challenging the police conclusions later on.

Doubt 1: Lin Xiuying said that she saw two dark scratch marks on the wrists of Lin Xiaoling.

Doubt 2: She clearly saw that the vagina of Lin Xiaoling was open and not closed.  Furthermore she had a hideous look in death.  If this was a normal death, how could her body look like this?

Doubt 3: If Yan Xiaoling died normally, why did the hospital call the police?

Doubt 4: Why didn't Yan Xiaoling wear underpants when she went to the hospital that day?

Our reporter investigated these doubts.

Liu Yongwen is an emergency room doctor at Mingqing County Hospital.  On the night when Yan Xiaoling died, he was responsible for trying to resuscitate her.  When he was interviewed by our reporter, he said that he did not observe any wound marks on the neck, hands or feet.  He remembered that Yan Xiaoling was wearing pajamas when she was sent to the hospital.  He did not remember whether there were wound marks elsewhere on Yan's body.  The reporter also saw that photos taken at the autopsy the day after the death.  There were no scratches or other wound marks on her neck, wrists or body.

So how did "the expanded vagina" came about?  The reporter asked Lin Xiuying to recall how she inspected the vagina of her daughter at the time.

Lin Xiuying recalled: At around 3 pm on February 13, she examined the naked body of Yan Xiaoling which was lying on a table in the hospital morgue.  The body had been placed on the autopsy table which is about 70 millimeters tall.  She was about half a meter from the body.  She saw that the legs of Yan Xiaoling were spread, with the ankles being about 30 to 40 millimeters apart.  There was a gap about 4 millimeters wide in Yan Xiaoling's vagina.  She said that she did not move up close to inspect the lower body.

Lin Xiuying told the reporter that she was wearing glasses when she examined the body because she has vision impairment.  She said that she took a fall more than ten years ago and injured her ocular nerves.  She cannot see anything with her left eye and has to rely solely on her right eye.  Later, her right eye began to fail too.  So she got a pair of eyeglasses which allowed her to see things barely.

She put on her glasses and stood half a meter away from the reporter.  She said: "I can see the outline of your face, but I cannot see the details."  Then she took one step forward, but she still could not see the face of the reporter.  So what is her vision?  She did not show the report on the vision test that a medical organization had conducted.  She only said, "when I wear the glasses, I can see the first two rows of the vision chart."  In terms of vision, Lin Xiuying is hardly likely to see the condition of her daughter's vagina.  But she insisted firmly that such was the state of her daughter's body as she recalled.  The forensic doctor of the Mingqing county public security bureau did not think that Lin Xiuying was reasonable in her assertion.

He said that the vagina knows how to contract itself.  "In the case of death, the body loses its functions and the body becomes rigid.  That means the vagina won't be able to close by itself."  On the Internet, someone recognized this point.  Therefore, based upon the recollection that "the vagina was still open after death," they concluded that the body of Yan Xiaoling was raped after death.  This was the most sensationalistic part of the Internet posts.

The Mingqing hospital authorities said that it was absurd to allege that the body was raped after death, because nobody could be raping a body inside a hospital emergency room.  The doctor recalled: "According to the records, Yan Xiaoling was taken to the hospital at 10:05pm on February 11 last year.  The doctors tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate her for 30 minutes before pronouncing her death.  Who could be raping her body?"  The gang-rape that Lin Xiuying heard about and the actual time of death of Yan Xiaoling conflicted with each other.

Doubt Number 3: What happened before Yan Xiaoling died?

If Yan Xiaoling's death was normal, why did the hospital call the police?  The Mingqing County Hospital emergency room doctor Liu Yongwen recalled the scene.  It was the night of February 11 last year.  A man carried Yan Xiaoling on his back to the hospital.  As the doctors tried to revive Yan Xiaoling, the man walked out of the hospital.  When the patient passed away, there were were no friends or relatives by her side.  She did not even carry any identification.  Since this was a matter of life and death, the hospital called 110 and told the police.

So what happened?  After many trials and errors, the reporter finally located the man who carried Yan Xiaoling to the hospital on his back -- Lin Xijian and found out about what happened that night.  He was the last person to be with Yan Xiaoling.

40-something-old Lin Xijian is unemployed and has no fixed abode.  He was staying with his friend Nie Zhixiong.  He said that Nie and Yan were lovers.  Before this  happened, he and another friend Huang stayed at the rental room that Nie and Yan shared.  On the early morning of February 11, Yan, Nie and other friends came back from the Lige KTV.  Within half a hour, Yan began to have stomach cramps.  Yan said that she had an upset stomach and she took some medicine.  But the pain did not subside.  Nie Zhixiong wanted to take her down to the hospital but Yan refused.  Lin Xijaing said that in order to take care of the sick Yan Xiaoling, Nie set up a temporary bed next to Yan's bed so that he and Huang can take turns to look after her.  On that evening, Nie and Huang went out, leaving Lin to take care of Yan Xiaoling in the home.  After 9pm, Yan began to say that the pain was getting unbearable.  So Lin picked up the pale Yan to go to the hospital.

But it was not easy for Lin Xijian (who was just over 1.5 meters tall) to carry Yan Xiaoling who was about the same height.  He went first to the clinic, but nobody was there.  He tried to flag down a car on the street, but there were no cars.  So he had to carry Lin on his back and walk to the Mingqing County Hospital.  Lin recalled that it took more than half an hour to get there.  The reason why he walked out of the hospital afterwards was that he worked odd jobs at construction lots and did not have much money.  On that evening, Nie Zhixiong asked him to stay home to look after Yan Xiaoling.  As a friend, he took Yan down to the hospital.  Once there, he had no money and he was afraid that he could only hinder matters.  Therefore, he rushed over to the place where Nie was drinking to tell him to go and take care of matters.

Nie Zhixiong said: Before Yan Xiaoling was taken to the hospital, she was already in bad shape.  When she wanted to use the restroom, he had to pick her up and carry here there.  She kept throwing up too, thus soiling all her underwear.  So he helped her get into her pajamas and bra.  However, there were no clean underpants.  That was why Yan Xiaoling ended up with no underpants.

After these investigations, the reporter found a version that was completely different from that on the Internet posts.  The "tragic beyond belief" case of Yan Xiaoling was certainly different from the one according to the Fuzhou police and also different from the one based upon the facts.  So how was such a story turned from speculations into a clearly delineated Internet post?  How did it arouse such passionate Internet opinions?  Please read the next story of our investigation.

(Strait Metropolis Daily)  The Case of Yan Xiaoling: How the Internet writers interpret things.  September 2, 2009.

The post entitled "Yan Xiaoling of Mingqing is ten thousand times more tragic than Deng Yuqiao of Badong" was re-posted 190,000 times and drew many angry comments from netizens.  Our reporter learned that the contents of the post came from Lin Xiuying, the mother of Yan Xiaoling.  She was not well-educated and does not know anything about computers or the Internet.  Her narrative was produced by three netizens who put a complete and clear story on the Internet.

Afterwards, the three netizens were criminally detained for making the post, and this raised more questions.  Through many efforts, our reporter was able to interview two of these netizens --- Fan Yanxiong and You Jingyou.  When the interviews began, You Jingyou said that the case has entered the judicial process.  Therefore, he would rather not discuss the legalistic aspects of the case.  He was willing to talk to the reporter about how the case ended up on the Internet and how it evolved over time.

So what did these netizens do?  What kind of role did they play in the communication of the Yan Xiaoling case?

Step 1: Seeking help from Internet writers

The narrative of Yan Xiaoling's mother could no longer be separated into genuine memory versus repeated rumors.  Fragments of her narrative contain many contradictions.  Yet the Internet posts were orderly and logical.  Who did she find to write the posts?  According to the information provided by the public security bureau, the post with the biggest impact is "Yan Xiaoling of Mingqing is ten thousand times more tragic than Deng Yuqiao of Badong" who author is Fan Yanxiong.  It was re-packaged by the editor of an overseas website and re-imported back into China among the various Internet forums.  All the information in the post came from the mother of Yan Xiaoling, subject to the rationalization of the Internet writers.

The reporter learned that for the more than one year since the death of Yan Xiaoling, Lin Xiuying had made many petitioned trips based upon the facts that "she personally heard" or that "she personally saw."  She has been to the Mingqing public security bureau alone more than a dozen times.  The conclusion was always the same and Lin Xiuying did not get the "gang rape to death" conclusion that she wanted.

"The problem just could not be solved."  Once Lin Xiuying began to petition, she got to know a group of other petitioners.  In May this year, Lin was introduced by a friend to contact a person who "specialized in petitioning" on behalf of people.  The name of this person was Fan Yanxiong, who claimed to be a civilian human rights defender.

Lin Xiuying said that she told the story to Fan Yanxiong and provided the telephone numbers of "Mingqing public security bureau crime investigation division commander Lin (who was actually the current Mingqing public security bureau deputy director)" and the secretary of the political and legal commission.  There was also a photo of Yan Xiaoling taken in the morgue one month after her death, showing signs of severe skin and muscle withering.

Fan Yanxiong told the reporter about what happened between her meeting with Lin Xiuying and the writing of the post: In May this year, she received a call from Lin Xiuying who asked her to meet in person about the death of her daughter Yan Xiaoling as a result of gang rape.  But the meeting was delayed until June 21 in Fuzhou.  Fan Yanxiong remembered that Lin Xiuying showed her the photos, the forensic doctor's report and other materials.  Everything else was based upon oral narration.  Based upon what Lin Xiuying told her, the post was written and printed on June 22.  After Lin Xiuying confirmed that there was no error, she emailed the post and the photos to the editor of a certain overseas website which published them.

On June 23, there appeared a post written by Fan Yanxiong entitled "Fujian Mingqing police and thugs gang raped 26-year-old young woman to death and continued to rape the corpse afterwards -- no way to complain about this tragedy."  This was quickly re-posted in many popular Internet forums in China.  Fan Yanxiong used the pen name "Yan Han" for this post.

This happened just a few dozen hours after Fan Yanxiong met with Lin Xiuying.  Fan Yanxiong said that there was no need for her to verify the facts.  She said that during Lin Xiuying's narration of the death of her daughter, she was crying and emotionally moved.  This made Fan Yanxiong certain that Lin was telling the truth.  Fan Yanxiong said that she is a "very emotional" person and therefore she has no doubt about the narrative given by Lin Xiuying.

But on the other hand Fan Yanqiong claimed to have certain knowledge about the law "and even did business negotiations for renowned corporations."  After being arrested, Fan Yanqiong had stated that it was "inappropriate" to make Internet posts without verifying the facts.

Step 2: The voices grew

According to the investigation by the public security bureau, there were three versions of the post on the same day when the first post appeared.  These were then re-posted a total of 190,000 times.  This is not even counting the number of comments.  The Fuzhou public security bureau quickly responded and described the facts of the case.  But this response drew a strong reaction on the Internet.  For example, the posts said: "The basement on the right side of the broadcast television station not far away from the Lige KTV is actually an extension of the entertainment outlet" and "ever since this KTV opened, anonymous female corpses have been frequently found."  The police stated that there was no such "basement" in that building and that there has been no murders in Mingqing in the brief two months or so that the Lige KTV had opened for business.  However, people kept talking on the Internet.

The netizens did not trust the police because of a doubt that came from the Internet: Why did the Mingqing public security bureau not excuse themselves from the investigation when they are under "suspicion" themselves?  This caused the netizens to link this case with the other famous Internet cases such as "Eluding the Cat" and "Doingo push-ups".  This increased the lack of trust.

Our reporter interviewed deputy director Lin of the Mingqing county public security bureau who was mentioned in the Internet posts.  Deputy director Lin told our reporter: Lin Xiuying believed all along that her daughter had died as a result of gang rape and therefore she made petitions at the local petition office.  On the third day after the death of Yan Xiaoling (namely, February 13, 2009), the Mingqing public security bureau conducted an autopsy of the body of the body of Yan Xiaoling at the request of the family members.  The Fuzhou city and the Fujian provincial law enforcement agencies also issued the final pathology reports.  All had the same conclusion that Yan Xiaoling had died as a result of massive internal bleeding as a result of the rupture of the Fallopian tube due to an ectopic pregnancy.  But Yan's mother Lin Xiuying was not satisfied with this outcome and made many petition trips.  The Mingqing county public security bureau had to dispatch police officers to investigate all those who had contact with Yan Xiaoling before her death.  The results basically eliminated any possibility of gang rape.

Therefore, there was no issue about whether they should have excused themselves from investigating the case.

By the time that the posts began to state explicitly that "the Mingqing public security people were partners with Nie Zhixiong in the KTV," it was more than one year after the death of Yan Xiaoling.  The repeated investigations over more than one year all came to the same conclusion.  But many netizens continued to regard the immediate entrance of the Mingqing police into the investigation of the case as "destruction of evidence."

Step 3: The video was posted on the Interent

On June 24, the Fuzhou city public security bureau called a press conference that included media organizations inside and outside of Fujian province.  They made their clarifications on the cause of death of Yan Xiaoling.  On the next day, almost all of the Fuzhou media carried the full story.

But the rumors did not stop.  Instead, it drew "rational" doubts from netizens.

You Jingjou was one of them.  He is a 40-something-old engineering who is responsible for production safety in major construction projects.  He said that he had seen the posts about Yan Xiaoling and thought that the posts contained certain exaggerated and inaccurate points.  He also read the authoritative information from the police.  But he "still wanted to made some amendments to the inappropriate parts of the posts."

You Jingyou thought that in order to question the information from the public security bureau, it is necessary to make an objective statement.  After the police made their clarification, he thought that the mother of Yan Xiaoling deserved the same opportunity as the government departments to make her own statement.  So he produced the video in which Lin Xiuying told her story.  The video was edited and posted on the Internet.  This became a "press conference" with a diametrically opposite perspective.  So he and several friends contacted Lin Xiuying.  They took her home and filmed a video.  During their investigation, the police learned that Wu Huaying who was filming with You Jingyou kept interrupting the filming and "instructing Lin Xiuying to be more lively and touching."  You Jingyou said that the video that he took was mostly the statements made by Lin Xiuying and her elder brother.  After the overseas website got a hold of this video, they added sub-titles such as "gang raped to death" and posted it on the Internet.

The reporter found that there were are many netizens like You Jingyou who looked up Lin Xiuying to confirm the details.  However, they only sought Lin Xiuying out for confirmation and no one else.  On the other side, the reporter learned from the public security bureau that the targets of "accusation" in those Internet posts included the secretary of the political and legal commission of Mingqing county as well as the police investigators.  These people were subjected to "human flesh search" by the netizens.  Their family details and private information were published.  They kept receiving abusive telephone calls from strangers.  Their lives became hellish from the continuous harassment.

How the story was made logical

In the narrative of Lin Xiuying, there were many places that were contradictory or against commonsense.  But they became cleared up in the posts to the point of being made logically impeccable.  How did ambiguity become clarity?  Here is Lin Xiuying's account: At 4pm on the afternoon of February 10, 2008, Yan Xiaoling received several calls from Nie Zhixiong.  At the time, Lin Xiuying heard that Nie wanted her daughter to go to the Lige KTV and "get girls" for the friends of Nie.  Lin Xiuying did not want her daughter to do that sort of things.  But the daughter refused and said, "I am doing this for the good of my two younger brothers."

Our reporter confirmed that Lin Xiuying did not like Nie Zhixiong.  She said that "Nie is a bum who did heroin.  He is not a decent fellow."  She detested that person "whom she did not even want to let inside the home."  The police as well as Nie Zhixiong's father confirmed that Nie did invite Yan Xiaoling.  At the same time, Nie Zhixiong "had a wife but still fooled around with other women frequently.  He had been forced to quit drugs after being caught using heroin."

In writing the post, Fan Yanqiong rationalized Nie Zhixiong to be a "underworld gang boss" and let Yan Xiaoling meet with him against the wishes of her mother.  This is the same logic in gangster movies.

Lin Xiuying's narrative: After her daughter's death, several "shady" characters came to bring her the news.  She heard that there were eight people who were singing with Yan Xiaoling at the Lige KTV that night.  Several days after the death of her daughter, she heard the street talk that her daughter had been gang-raped to death.  But the forensic doctor said that her daughter had died from an ectopic pregnancy.  She refused to believe this because the daughter just had her period a short while ago.

Our reporter confirmed that the police investigation found that eight or nine people were at the Lige KTV on the night before Yan Xiaoling died.  These people came and went through the night, some of them bringing girlfriends.  By the time Yan Xiaoling left, there were three men with her including Nie Zhixiong.  Yan Xiaoling died from an ectopic pregnancy.  According to a gynecologist: since the embryo was not in the uterus, it is possible to have a small amount of bleeding which resembled monthly period discharge.

In writing the post, the men who were with Yan Xiaoling became the murderers; Yan Xiaoling was murdered but the forensic doctor said that it was due to an ectopic pregnancy; this showed that there was an interest link between the "gang boss" Nie Zhixiong and the police; rumor upon rumor then became the police joining with Nie to own and operate the Lige KTV and providing a protective umbrella for a place which sold drugs and promoted prostitution.


(Tiger Temple)  November 7, 2009.

I returned from Guangzhou to Beijing on the afternoon of November 6.  For the past two days, I have been busy organizing and studying the materials for the case of Fujian netizens making false charges.  The more I read, the harder it was for me to stay calm.

It is so hard to be nice!  Helping a petitioner write something leads to prosecution for making false charges.

Lin Xiuying is the mother of Yan Xiaoling.  This sorry woman has been petitioning for more than a year.  Although it is known that the problems that she exposed are non-existent, no government or judicial department has ever thought of prosecuting her with making false charges.  Why?

If the three Fujian netizens did not hold sympathy for her, they would not have helped her make her voice known and then they would not be prosecuted for making false charges.  So doing a good deed leads to a bad ending!

After reading the case materials, I cannot understand why Fan Yanqiong became the fabricator when the material in the essay came from Lin Xiuying?  Why did You Jingyou and Wu Huaying became the fabricators when all they did was make a video of Lin Xiuying speaking?

Lin Xiuying told the investigator that she met a middle-aged woman Sister Fan (=Fan Yanqiong) when she went to petition at the provincial government office.  Fan Yanqiong read her petition materials and said, "This material won't work.  You have to be clearer.  You need to find someone who understands the law.  You tell them how your daughter died, as well as the police investigation.  He can re-write the material."  Lin Xiuying did not get a telephone number from Fan, who nevertheless got Lin's number.

Lin Xiuying said that Fan Yanqiong called up one day and said that she wanted to know how Yan Xiaoling died.  Fan Yanqiong asked Lin Xiuying to come to Fuzhou city.  Lin Xiuying said that she is still living in Minqing county where it would take one hour to reach Fuzhou city.  Fan Yanqiong said, "I don't even help others who beg me.  You are lucky to come across me.  If you don't come, then I can't wait any longer.  I am leaving immediately."

Some time later, Fan Yanqiong came to Fuzhou city again and once again she called Lin Xiuying to say that she wanted to learn more about the death of Yan Xiaoling.  Lin agreed.  But she was afraid that she might be conned, so she asked her elder brother to accompany her.  After all, she has only met Fan Yanqiong only once before.

At the meeting, Lin Xiuying told Fan Yanqiong about the death of her daughter Yan Xiaoling as well as her personal doubts.  Fan Yanqiong helped to write an essay for Lin Xiuying.  She printed the essay and read it out aloud to Lin Xiuying.  After obtaining the consent of Lin Xiuying and her brother, Fan posted the essay on the Internet.

Lin Xiuying said that Fan Yanqiong did not charge a single cent for writing the essay.  In fact, Fan had an argument with the copy shop owner for over-charging the copies.

Lin Xiuying said that she is illiterate.  She does not know anything about computers.  She only heard from other petitioners that materials posted on the Internet may gain the attention of the relevant departments.  She got Fan Yanqiong to write the essay in order to gain government attention to deal with the death of her daughter.  Lin Xiuying said that You Jingyou and Wu Huaying made the video for the same purpose.

In the notes taken down by the investigator, Lin Xiuying said that the allegations in Fan Yanqiong's essay came from what she heard from her daughter or other persons.  The investigators asked her how she learned about the collusion between the police and the gang: running a KTV; selling ketamine powder; providing prostitutes; coercing girls to become prostitutes; sharing the profits; etc.  Lin Xiuying replied that she overheard her daughter Yan Xiaoling speaking about these subjects on the phone when alive.

The investigators asked her about "the Lige KTV in Mingqing county, Fujian province is an entertainment which sells ketamine powder, provides prostitution, coerces girls to become prostitutes and makes extraordinary profits, thus ruining the lives of an untold number of girls ... how did you know about it?"  Lin Xiuying said that this was what her daughter Yan Xiaoling said while alive.

Lin Xiuying said that she did not try to investigate or understand these problems.  Lin then relayed these hearsays to Fan Yanqiong, who wrote them into the essay without any attempt to verify.  So Fan was at most disseminating rumors but she did not made them up herself.

Lin Xiuying said that You Jingyou and Wu Huaying did not tell her how to fabricate or edit any facts during the making of the video.  You Jingyou and Wu Huaying only let Lin Xiuying speak her own mind.  If Lin Xiuying was inaccurate, then the two are only guilty of dissemination but not fabrication.

When You Jingyou saw Fan Yanxiong's essay on the Internet and went to ask Lin Xiuying to make a video, the Fuzhou city public security bureau had already held a press conference.  At the press conference, the public security bureau clarified that Yan Xiaoling had died from a ectopic pregnancy.  The video was produced after this press conference.  The public security bureau said that You Jingyou and Wu Huaying knew the cause of death but still got Lin Xiuying to make this video and let her say that Yan Xiaoling died as a result of a gang rape.  This was fabrication.  The position of the public security bureau is very clear: the press conference information is correct and not subject to challenge.

Are press conference statements 100% accurate?  Do the people have no right to raise doubts?

This reminded me of the death of Guangxi judge Li Chaoyang in April 2007.  After judge Li died in a detention cell, the Guangxi Autonomous Region government police/procuratorate conducted an investigation which included an autopsy.  The conclusion was sudden death.  The Guilin city government called a press conference to say that it was a sudden death.  But the family refused to accept this conclusion.  After many judicial examinations, it was determined that it was not a sudden natural death.  Even so, the finding could not be reversed.  Then another prisoner on death row made a denunciation to reveal the truth, in which judge Li was beaten to death by fellow inmates.  It was only then that the persons involved were prosecuted.  The "Elude the Cat" case in Yunnan was similar when the public security bureau made an initial finding but the truth emerged due to widespread doubts.  That means that citizens have the right to question the position of the judiciary.

Based upon the known facts, I find it hard to believe that Yan Xiaoling died as a result of gang rape.  But some of the issues raised by Lin Xiuying has not yet been addressed.  Although Lin Xiuying's story is completely at odds with that of the public security bureau, people can still raise questions about any story.  If you report something that is at odds with the truth, you are guilty of making a false charge.  So if the press conference announcement is true, then any challenges to it is making a false charge.  But in the case of the sudden death of Li Chaoyang, any reporter who reported the press conference announcement will have made a false charge given the truth that was to emerge later?  This kind of view is clearly wrong and absurd.

In the case of Yan Xiaoling, Fan Yanqiong, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying were "acting" as civil reporters.  Their essay/video did not intend to make false charges.  They did not fabricate anything.  If the contents of the essay/video damaged certain people, it is just a civil lawsuit.  Has any media reporter ever been charged with a crime for inaccurate reporting?

The prosecutor's case made this a crime committed jointly by several persons.  Lin Xiuying who made the inaccurate petition is free for now while other "accomplices" are free on bail.  So only Fan Yanqiong, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying are being put on trial for making false charges.  Is the law being enforced fairly and justly?  How can it be like this?

(Reuters)  China Internet activist trial starts before Obama visit   By Emma Graham-Harris.  November 11, 2009.

Three Chinese Internet activists went on trial on Wednesday for publicising the disputed death of a young woman days before U.S. President Barack Obama heads to China with human rights on his agenda.

The three faced the charge of "making false allegations" in a court in Fujian province in eastern China after they helped draw up, and posted online, documents and a video about the fate of 25-year-old Yan Xiaoling, who had been involved with a local underworld figure when she died in early 2007.

Yan's mother, Lin Xiuying, campaigned for two years against an official verdict that she died from haemorrhaging caused by an ectopic pregnancy. Doctors told her Yan was gang-raped the night she died, Lin is widely quoted as saying.

Posted online, material on the case sparked a furore, prompting local officials to deny the charges publicly. When the controversy would not die down, police arrested a handful of people who had prepared and posted the documents.

Three who had drafted Lin's complaint and recorded an interview with her -- Fan Yanqiong, Wu Huaying and You Jingyou -- were eventually charged, highlighting the ruling Communist Party's concerns about the impact of internet activism.

The dead woman's mother, who is the source of all the information which prosecutors say is untrue, does not face trial.

"Drafting a document or making a video does not make them guilty of this crime. They just listened to Yan Xiaoling's mother and prepared materials, they didn't tell her what to say," said Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer for You who also blogs about the case.  "If they are tried based on the content of Chinese law, they cannot be found guilty."

China's court system is controlled by the ruling Communist Party, so trials are often short and almost invariably end in guilty verdicts.

Rights groups have urged Obama to speak out forcefully on human rights, including freedom of speech and the rule of law, during a China visit that starts on Sunday,

"In the nine months since you took office, the trend on human rights in China has been distinctly negative," Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, said in an open letter to Obama. "We urge that you...speak publicly and unambiguously in Shanghai and Beijing about human rights in China."

Obama told Reuters in an interview earlier this week that he would discuss human rights and dismissed critics who say he is soft-peddling on freedom to boost other agendas.

But Liu, the lawyer, did not expect Obama's visit to help his clients.

The three stumbled across the case after Lin, the bereaved mother, spent two years petitioning officials in Beijing and Fujian province for justice, alleging local officials and police had ties to the men who Yan was with before she died.

Fan Yanqiong helped the poorly educated Lin draw up a more coherent account of her claims and the other two made a video of Lin discussing her daughter's death.

"All she was doing was helping the disadvantaged, helping them demand their rights," Fan's husband Lin Hui, who is not related to Lin Xiuying, told Reuters by phone. "But now she's been targeted by local officials."

(Liu Xiaoyuan's blog)

At 7:00am on November 11, I and lawyers Li Fangping and Jin Guangyong went by car to Mawei District.  In Mawei District, we ate breakfast.  We arrived at the courthouse at 8:10am.

Outside the Mawei courthouse, seventy to eighty people were waiting.  Outside the entrance, people lined up to enter.  I observed that one person held more than a dozen passes to distribute to others, so he seemed to be a team leader.

At 8:15am, we entered the courthouse using our court summons and lawyer identification.  As we went up to the security gate, the court police officer demanded to inspect our bags.  I objected.  According to Supreme Court regulations, lawyers do not have to undergo security inspection as long as they have lawyer licenses.  This is a special privilege that the Supreme Court accords to lawyers.

The court police officer said that he needed to consulted his superiors.  So we had to wait outside the security gate.

While waiting, I saw that other spectators were being registered at a window next to the security gate.  I noticed that someone produced a police pass.  So many of the passes were issued to police officers, which was why many reporters could not get passes.

When I saw that the prosecutor was already seated, I asked the court police officer to get us admitted as well.  The officer asked us to wait.  Then a tall court police officer came and said that we did not have to be inspected, but we would have to open out bags for a glance.  I said that even a glance is an inspection.  This court police officer emphasized repeatedly that this was not an inspection.

At my insistence, the court police officer said that we can skip security inspection if we can prove that lawyers don't have to do so.  I said, You need to show the regulations that lawyers have to be inspected.  A dispute ensued.  A female court police officer asked us not to be upset.  It was near opening time.  The female court police officer told us to enter.  She reminded us not to make any recordings and to respect the court rules.  I said that I will definitely respect the court rules but the court must also respect the legal rules too.

We entered the court room.  We arranged our case materials and then the sessions began.  It was 8:40am.  It was 10 minutes later than scheduled.

After the court was declared in session, the three defendants were brought into the court room.  Fan Yanqiong was wheeled in on a wheelchair by court police officers.  When she saw her daughter in the gallery, she got excited and yelled that she wanted to hug her daughter.  She began to cry aloud.

When Wu Huaying saw her daughter and her mother in the gallery, she was also very emotionally excited.  Wu Huaying asked the judge again and again, "Can you judge independently?"

You Jingyou saw his wife and daughter in the gallery.  He managed to control his emotions.

Since Fan Yanqiong and Wu Huaying got emotionally upset, the chief judge had to call for a 5 minute rest.  The three defendants were taken into the rest room.  The defendants' lawyers worked to calm them down.

At around 9am, the chief judge announced that court will resume.

The chief judge inquired about the basic situation with the defendants Fan Yanqiong, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying about whether they had received the charge sheet, etc.

After the chief judge informed the defendants about their rights, Wu Huaying got emotionally excited and asked the judges repeatedly, "Can you judge independently?"

The defense lawyers saw that Wu Huaying and You Jingyou were handcuffed, and they asked the court to have the devices removed.  The chief judge agreed and asked the court police officers to remove the handcuffs.

At 9:14am, the prosecutor began to read the indictment document.

At 9:22am, the prosecutor read to the point where the defendant Fan Yanqiong fabricated facts.  Fan Yanqiong lost control of her emotions and accused the prosecutor of ignoring the facts and making false accusations.

At 9:25am, Fan Yanqiong became calmer and said that she has not taken medicine today.  So the court police officer brought her mineral water to take with her medicine.  Fan Yanqiong was in poor health when she was arrested.  After being taken into the detention center, she went on a hunger strike for several days.  When the lawyer met her the first time, she was already unable to walk.  She was wheeled into the meeting room.  The lawyer brought up her health condition with the detention center, which sent her to the hospital for treatment.

At 9:31am, the prosecutor read to the point about the lowly methods of the three defendants.  Fan Yanqiong lost control of her emotions and threw a fit.  She said that she wrote the essay in sympathy for Lin Xiuying and in the hope of gaining government attention.  She had no other intention, and she never received a cent from Lin Xiuying.  Wu Huaying was also very excited as she accused the prosecutor of smearing her character.  You Jingyou was also resentful of this accusation which he thought had no factual basis.

Fan Yanqiong became increasingly excited.  She started cursing and the scene went out of control.  At 9:34am, the chief judge asked Fan Yanqiong to be removed by the court police officers to restore public order.  When Wu Huaying continued to condemn the prosecutor, the chief judge asked the court police officers to remove her as well.  Seeing his two co-defendants removed, You Jinghyou asked to withdraw as well.  The chief judge said, "If you leave as well, you will be held under detention."

I objected to what the chief judge said.  When a case has not yet been judged, how can continued detention be held?  The judge could not know unless the outcome of the case has already been decided.

After all three defendants exited, we said that the hearing could not continue without them.  The chief judge said, "They lost control of their emotions and violated court rules.  It is impossible to continue unless they are removed."  I said, "They lost control of their emotions temporarily.  They will calm down after they are taken away.  They should be brought back so that the session can continue."  The chief judge accepted this opinion and told the court police officers to bring the defendants back.

Fan Yanqiong said in court that her essay was based upon what Lin Xiuying told her and she did not fabricate any facts.  She did so out of sympathy. 

You Jingyou and Wu Huaying said that their video was based upon what Lin Xiuying and her brother said, and they did not fabricate any facts.  They also did so out of sympathy.  They posted the video on the Internet in order to draw government attention so that the case of the death of Yan Xiaoling can be dealt with.

In presenting the evidence, the prosecutor divided the sixteen volumes into four sections.  In presenting the first section, the prosecutor did not read out any content that was positive for the defendants.  The defendants' lawyers objected.  The defendants also objected to this method of presentation.  Since there was a great deal of disagreement, the chief judge announced an adjournment so that the prosecutors and defense lawyers can exchange opinions.

After the court session resumed, the prosecutor continued with this style of presentation and the objections were denied.

With respect to the evidence presented by the prosecutors, my viewpoint was that it proved that Fan Yanqiong, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying did not fabricate anything.  If these are was a case of making false charges, the perpetrator should be Lin Xiuying.  In the statement to the police, Lin Xiuying admitted that she provided the contents of the essay of Fan Yanxiong.

To the prosecutor, the people must believe what the public security bureau said at the press conference and harbor no more doubts.  This position is risible.  I used the examples of the death of Guangxi judge Li Yang and the "elude the cat" incident in Yunnan to rebut that viewpoint.

The prosecutor had another subconscious viewpoints that our public security officers obey the law and cannot possibly participate in prostitution and drug-dealing, or run a KTV with gangsters.  I rebutted this view with the example of the anti-crime campaign in Chongqing.

On November 5, the lawyers asked the court to have Lin Xiuying and Lin Adide attend the trial.  They also notified the 57 witnesses in the case to attend.  Fan Yanqiong and Wu Huaying also asked the court several times to have Lin Xiuying appear as a witness.  The court did not grant the request.

Lin Xiuying was waiting outside the courthouse all day and hoped to enter the court and participate in the session.  But she was still outside when we left around 8:00pm in the evening.  Lin Xiuying has said many times that the defendants were arrested for helping her.  Yan Xiaoling's body will stay unburied as long as the defendants are jailed.  This unfortunate daughter of Lin Xiuying has the conscience to tell good from bad.

During the court hearing, the ailing Fan Yanqiong took medicine.  The doctor gave her oxygen and measured her blood pressure.  I sensed that Fan Yanqiong may be having some mental problems as a result of going through this case.

In the courtroom, there were one large camera and two smaller cameras.  But I don't think that they belong to the media.  According to information, the local media were not allowed to attend.

During the noon recess, the court provided free lunch to the lawyers and other specators.

At 7:40pm, the court session finally ended.  No verdict was announced.

When we got out of the courthouse, we found that it was raining hard outside.  After we left for a while, lawyer Lin Hongnan received a telephone call from the chief judge to say that the lawyers must be present when the defendants make their signatures on the court transcript.  So we had to return to the courthouse.  By the time we witnessed the defendants sign the court transcripts, it was 9:00 pm already.  We could not find any taxis, so we took the bus back to Fuzhou city.  By the time we finished dinner and returned to the hotel, it was past 10:00pm.

As I finish up this essay, I must mention the performances of the judges and the court police.  My observation is that they are sympathetic with the three defendants.  They treated Fan Yanqiong very well.

The prosecutor was also quite restrained in the face of the diatribes from Fan Yanqiong and Wu Huaying.  Regrettably, when Lin Hongnan wanted to review the prosecution process, the prosecutor said that Wu Huaying expressed dissatisfaction with the government in QQ chat sessions.  A female prosecutor got upset with what Lin Honghan said and she said that she never said anything like that and she found fault with the fact that Lin Hongnan is 70 years old.  Astonishingly she said, "You are talking nonsense."

I asked the chief judge to stop the prosecutor from using uncivilized language.  Even if Lin Hongnan was wrong, the prosecutor cannot abuse him verbally in court.  The two prosecutors are carrying out their duties and they cannot decide whether the three defendants are guilty on their own.  If they are criticized in court by the defendants, they cannot take it out on the lawyers.  This prosecutor is young and so I will not name her.  I hope that she will pay more attention to using civilized language in order to maintain the image of the procuratorate as being just, fair, civilized and law-abiding.  Of course, I must examine myself.  I have a small stature, but I talk very loud.  However I do not use uncivilized language.

This court hearing is actually a good lesson about the legal system.  I believe that the young court police officers who were in the gallery can feel how hard it is hard for the people.

The situation is in the court was too complicated, so many details will have to be described later.

This case contains many problems about how the police obtained the evidence.  This is seriously violating the <People's Republic of China Criminal Prosecution Laws> and <The Procedural Regulations for the Public Security Organization in Handling Criminal Cases>.  The prosecutor claimed that the case was handled by a special investigation unit.  I asked the prosecutor where this special investigation unit came from?  Mawei district?  Fuzhou city?  Fujian province?  The prosecutor was silent.  This was not a major violent crime.  This was just a case of false charges made in two Internet essays and one video.  Why was it necessary to form a special investigation unit?  Isn't that overkill?

Finally I characterize this case in three phrases: too absurd (when someone writes an essay or makes a video while not fabricating any content and not having any intent to make false charges, they nevertheless become criminally liable); too ridiculous (there is not a single piece of evidence that the essay writer or the video producer fabricated any facts; and the accessories are prosecuted but not the principal); too scary (a directive from a government official was enough to mobilize the police to arrest you; if you dare defend the rights of petitioners and expose local scandal, you end up in jail; it would be a wonder if you are frightened).

(Associated Press)  Net produces new generation of human rights activists in China   By Anita Chan.  March 19, 2010.

Lin Xiuying believes her daughter bled to death after being gang-raped two years ago by a group of thugs that had ties to the police in their southern Chinese town.

For more than a year, the illiterate mother appealed to various government departments in Fujian province's Mingqin county, pleading for someone to take a closer look at the death of 25-year-old Yan Xiaoling that police blamed on an ectopic pregnancy.

Lin, 50, was sobbing outside a government office last summer when she met self-taught legal expert Fan Yanqiong. Fan took down the details of the case from Lin and then posted them online. Two others, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying, spoke to the mother and posted their video interview online.

On Friday, the three were in court awaiting a verdict on charges of making false accusations, which carries a sentence of up to three years in jail.

It is the latest example of Chinese Internet users being targeted for their budding grass-roots activism X ordinary people spreading the word about grievances from every corner of the country with postings on Twitter, microblogs and other websites.

Netizens are using the Internet to talk about injustice, said Liu Xiaoyuan, You's lawyer. But local officials just use their public power to suppress them.

Dozens of bloggers showed up outside Mawei Distrist People's Court on Friday in Fuzhou city where the verdict was to be announced, tweeting constantly and posting photos from the scene online. They reportedly were met by more than 100 uniformed and plainclothes police. The case was indefinitely postponed.

China blocks online materials it deems to be harmful or pornographic, which frequently includes information that contradicts the views of the ruling Communist Party. Such restrictions prompted Internet giant Google to announce in January that it may close China-based because it no longer wanted to co-operate with Beijing's Internet censorship.

But there is a vibrant community of tech-savvy users who can easily hop over the Great Firewall that blocks access to sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. They are a minority of the 384 million people online in China but among the most vocal: young, educated, liberal-minded and unafraid of questioning the Communist government.

Twitter in particular has been harnessed by Chinese users who revel in having a forum where they can speak freely about politically sensitive matters X in 140 characters or less, of course.

With the help of new technology, it's become quite common and convenient for citizens to exercise their right of supervising the government. It's always hard to publish articles in traditional media and it's much easier to do so on the Internet, said Zhou Ze, a law professor at China Youth University for Political Science who has spoken out about detentions related to online comments.

Those arrested or detained for trying to help Lin are just the latest to be punished for their activism.

Wang Shuai was detained in Shanghai after speaking out online about land confiscation in his hometown in central China's Henan province. Wu Baoquan was sentenced to 1-1/2 years in jail for criticizing X also online X a land compensation plan in his Inner Mongolian village.

But there have been a few victories, too.

Authorities dropped charges against a man in the eastern province of Shandong who was detained after accusing his local Communist Party secretary of corruption. An unpopular garbage incinerator project in the southern city of Guangzhou has been put on hold. A karaoke bar waitress went unpunished after fatally stabbing a drunk government official who cornered her and demanded sex. Each case got strong attention from Chinese citizens online as details spread through blogs and forums.

Guo Baofeng, who works as a translator in the southern city of Xiamen, was among those taken away by police after posting a video interview of Lin on an overseas website. He became famous among Chinese netizens for sending Twitter updates while in police custody.

Pls help me, I grasp the phone during police sleep, and i have been arrested by Mawei police, SOS, he tweeted in English from his cellphone, avoiding Chinese characters that take longer to input. Guo was released from detention after about three weeks, though he is still under police monitoring.

Lin, the mother, does not have a deep understanding of the Internet or its workings, but knows that it is helping to keep her daughter's case in the public eye. Poor and uneducated, she can do little other than try to support those who helped spread the word of her plight by attending their court hearings.

The authorities take advantage of us because I'm illiterate and have no money or family connections, she said. Thankfully there are reporters and citizens helping me. They've helped so much and I hope they can keep helping us.

(Global Times)    In the name of defamation    By Li Xiaoshu and Zhang Lei     2010.05.25

Ren Jiaqi sang the national anthem in tears at the gate of the People's Court of Mawei District in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province.

The 53-year-old poet, a Communist Party member, was sobbing after he learnt that three Internet users were convicted of criminal defamation for posting an accusation of rape-to-death and naming two local officials as being involved.

"What's happened to the three accused today, could happen to the common people," Ren, one of some 2,300 concerned citizens gathered outside the court to oversee the trial, told the Global Times.

Fan Yanqiong, one of the three, was sentenced to a two-year imprisonment while two others, You Jingyou and Wu Huaying, were each handed one-year jail term by the court on April 16.

The defendants were held to be guilty of criminal defamation by leading to massive replies, attacks, abuses and slander among Internet users that severely destroyed the reputation of a few victims and stoked public disorder, reported the Xinhua News Agency.

Following an appeal, the second trial opened on May 20. No verdict has come out by press time.

The case has sparked controversy on Internet administration: Human right activists claimed that the first instance verdict has violated online freedom of expression while some others believe that Internet users should be better supervised and more self-disciplined to prevent the disperse of inaccurate information.

"I didn't verify what I wrote in the post," admitted Fan Yanqiong to the local police.

The case

The three online activists, together with 10 others, were arrested last June for helping an illiterate woman press authorities to reinvestigate her daughter's mysterious death two years ago by posting information and videos online.

They alleged that Yan Xiaoling, 25, died on February 11, 2008 after being gang-raped by a group of thugs who were in collusion with the police in Fujian's Minqing county.

Bloody pictures of the young women's face were exposed and two officials, the security bureau's deputy director Lin Zongying and a procurator surnamed Tu, were named online.

The posts and videos aroused widespread concern in popular Internet forums, such as Sina, 163, and Tianya.

Official investigation, however, showed that Yan died of bleeding from a failed pregnancy, and denied violence, rape or poisoning as cause of her death, according to a press conference on June 24, 2009, held by Fuzhou Public Security Bureau.

After the arrests, Zhang Shihe, an activist in Beijing, circulated a list of over 2,000 persons with their real names and occupations. The people were concerned over the prosecution of the three Internet users. He has also made a photo album and put together relevant television program on his own blog.

Other Internet users have come out in support as well. At least 300 citizens gathered outside the courthouse's main gate during the trial, although only eight from the defendants' family were admitted into the court premises. None of the domestic or foreign media, except Xinhua, was allowed to cover the proceedings, according to one of the defendants' lawyers, Liu Xiaoyuan.

"Plain-clothes national security officers were seated along with the families of the defendant", said Liu.

Another 2,000 concerned citizens who had traveled from various regions of China were stopped kilometers away from the courthouse. There are altogether seven defensive lines outside the courthouse, according to Wang Lihong, one of the activists from Beijing.

Remedy against defamation

Though rarely applied, defamation is listed as a criminal offence in China. Article 246 of China's Criminal Law stipulated that, in serious cases, the crime of public humiliation or defamation can result in up to three years' criminal detention, surveillance, or deprivation of political rights; State prosecutors do not initiate criminal defamation cases unless "serious harm is done to public order or to the State interests."

State prosecutors initiated the accusation only if the slander resulted in mass incidents and brought seri-ous international consequences by insulting diplomats, visiting foreign leaders and other personnel, accord-ing to a document by the Ministry of Public Security in March 2009.

"The Criminal Law does not specify the standard of judicial review on the crime's social harm and State interest, which resulted in a great flexibility for judicial organs to abuse their power, sometimes attack people who have expressed different opinions or challenged the government, " said Lian Gaobo, a law professor at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law.

In the court, materials presented by Minqing Public Security Bureau said the online post invented stories that were derogatory to the dignity and reputation of the bureau's officials and damaging to the bureau's credibility.

"The circulation of the online post created distrust among people involved with the bureau's daily work such as receiving petitions and handling cases according to law," it said.

Insiders questioned whether the charge of defamation is valid in this case. Even if the two officials were "insulted", it has nothing to do with national interest, the lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said.

Zhang Qianfan, a law professor at Peking University, said the key to this case is "we never know if the defendants were making up rumors."

"The court never cleared Lin Xiuying's doubts in the post by convincing evidence," he said. "The verdict can only leave one question: what is the truth?"

Zhang said "once the people intentionally fabricated stories that resulted in serious consequences, they are punishable under the law."

"However, the credibility of government can't be improved by punishing Internet rumormongers. The case reflected public infringement of individual right."

Fan's ex-attorney Lin Hongnan, a Fujian-based lawyer whose law firm was dismissed on April 21, said the three Internet users only took down what Lin Xiuying questioned. "If documenting can be guilty, then journalists and lawyers will live under great threat."

The three defendants in the trial were local human right activists who have been long overseeing the governments' wrongdoings and filing petitions for the weak, disclosed Lin.

"Fujian officials cannot tolerate such behavior that triggered public uproar and revealed other old dirty cases," Lin said.

"That's why the local police made arrests, then found evidence to prove the charges. This is a direct violation of the principle of non-criminal inference," he said.

Zhan Jiang, an expert on media and law, believed "power is too concentrated in Fujian Province."

"Local public security departments don't act according to law, but serve their masters," he told the Global Times. "It clearly violates China's basic policy of ruling the country according to law."

Fujian authorities showcased their power to terrify the people, wrote Han Han, China's most celebrated blogger.

"We (the Internet users) are in panic, but we don't know what you guys (with power) fear."

Challenge of Internet

In recent years, the Internet has become an outlet for citizens to express their dissatisfaction towards the government.

Zhou Jiugeng, the former director of Nanjing's property bureau, was removed from his post for corruption in 2008 just days after pictures of him wearing an expensive watch and smoking pricey cigarettes appeared on the Internet.

Zhou's removal was due largely to unidentified Internet users - those behind the so-called "human flesh engine" - who have completed the whole process of discovery and confirmation of his luxury lifestyle, incompatible with his salary.

Yu Jianrong, chairman of the Social Issues Research Center of the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said different understanding among Web users' on public events reflected their distrust of the government.

"The ultimate cause is the conflicts of interest in an established machinery, where the political elite with its monopoly over social resources has formed many interest groups that always ignore public good, " he told the Global Times.

"The present system lacks access for socially vulnerable people to express their views and for other forces to balance the overpowering bureaucratic organs," Yu said.

"Thus, it's important for the Party to cultivate platforms for public participation and to raise civil awareness among the people to protect their rights."

Zhan Jiang believes that the Internet is a godsend for the disadvantaged as "without it, the wronged and the weak are voiceless."

"Since the online outcry often comes from unsolved social problems and accumulated complaints, local governments should have a more tolerant attitude towards citizens' supervision and criticism," said Li Yonggang, a professor of Internet politics from Nanjing University.

Li suggested that authorities should accept "a more diversified online environment as the number of Internet users increased."

The outbreak of online supervision incidents indicates that the Internet has played a crucial role in the era of media politics, according to a 2009 report by the People's Daily online.

Some 99.3 percent Internet users surveyed will expose information online if they experience unfair incidents, said the report.

"The Internet is testing the Party's ability in administration," it said. "All levels of governments have put in place an emergency response mechanism to improve official interaction with netizens."

Cities in many provinces, such as Yunan, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Guizhou and Guangdong, have employed the Internet spokesperson system since last year.

"The system can promote transparency of policy making and enforcement," said Cao Jinsong, spokesperson of the Nanjing government, at China's first official seminar of Internet in Politics held on April 16.

"Local governments should encourage Internet users on more constructive speech," he added.

Liu Zhengrong, who supervises Internet affairs for the Information Office of the State Council, warned citizens about the need for "self-discipline in online expression".

"Everyone should be responsible for his or her speech," Liu was quoted by Xinhua as saying on April 14.

"Make sure we say things that are legally and morally permissible. Online information should also be viewed more critically."

'Butcher' the activist

Wu Gan, 38, set up a temporary studio to collect evidence, meet people and publicize his findings on the Fuqin case on the Internet. He has named the studio the "Abattoir" and his pen name is Tufu, meaning the butcher.

A former office worker responsible for airport security checks who quit in 2006, Wu told the Global Times, "a man should fight for his belief."

It was Wu's third time in Fuzhou for carrying out a voluntary investigation and showing support for the three defendants.

"The truth is far more complicated, indicating a special connection between local officials, the police and underground elements," Wu said.

To promote public awareness of the rule of law, Wu printed tens of thousands of posters and produced 2,000 digital video discs.

With the help of other citizen activists, the posters and video discs were distributed in the city's university town on April 15.

Not long after the distribution, the police detained three activists for nine hours.

Wu Gan's girlfriend said on April 19 that the Beijing police informed her employer that she had special connection with Falun Gong and sensitive foreign activists.

In the latest move, Wu, along with more than 10 other Internet users, activists and scholars, played and filmed a 20-minute parody of the trial two weeks ago. Since May 12, the video has been widely circulated online.

"It's not bad to create spoofs for protecting human rights," he said.