Skip to content Skip to navigation

Lawyers Appeal to Twitter CEO for Help

January 9, 2011

In an open letter to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, the lawyers for Wang Yi (王译) – the rights activist now serving one year of Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL) for tweeting a sarcastic message – ask the company to use its unique global influence to press for Wang’s unconditional release. In the letter, the lawyers, Teng Biao (滕彪) and Lan Zhixue (兰志学), said that Wang’s punishment violated not only her basic rights but also provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (of which China is a signatory). The lawyers also urge Twitter to use legal action to protect the rights of the company and of Twitter users.

As authorized by Teng and Lan, Human Rights in China (HRIC) has translated into English and is making public their letter to Costolo.

Immediately following the translation of the letter are the original Chinese texts of: a) the administrative complaint which the lawyers mailed to the Hongqi District People’s Court of Xinxiang, Henan Province, b) an explanation of “angry youth,” c) the RTL decision issued by the Xinxiang Municipal Reeducation-Through-Labor Committee, d) the administrative punishment decision [for Wang Yi] issued by the Changnan Precinct of the Wuxi Public Security Bureau, and e) the original text of Wang Yi’s tweet.

An Appeal Letter to Mr. Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter for Joint Effort to Rescue Twitter User Wang Yi

Dear Mr. Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter:

From a message retweeted by a Twitter friend on December 3, 2010, at 5:55:38 p.m., we learned that you expressed your concern over and support of Ms. Wang Yi (known as Cheng Jianping on her national ID card, hereinafter “Wang Yi”) who met with misfortune after posting on Twitter her satirical remarks on China’s “angry youth.” “Dear Chinese Government,” you tweeted, “year-long detentions for sending a sarcastic tweet are neither the way forward nor the future of your great people.”

As Wang Yi’s attorneys, we feel encouraged and gratified from the bottom of our hearts. We will, on our next visit with Ms. Wang Yi at the Henan Women’s Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL) Center, convey your concern and stance toward her and this incident.

To facilitate your understanding of the whole incident, we are providing a brief introduction of the events as follows:

On October 17, 2010, an anti-Japanese march broke out in Mianyang, Sichuan Province. It was reported that some people disturbed public order during the anti-Japanese march by grabbing Japanese-made video cameras, still cameras, and cell phones from demonstrators’ hands and throwing and smashing them on the ground.

Expressing his dissatisfaction and sarcasm over lawless acts and criminal behavior of wanton destruction of others’ property, Mr. Hua Chunhui, fiancé of Ms. Wang Yi, posted on the Internet from his home in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, the following (original text): “As for anti-Japanese demonstrations and smashing Japanese products, that was done years ago by [anti-Japanese activist] Guo Quan and his like. It’s not a new trick. If you really want to make a scene, immediately fly to Shanghai and smashthe Japan Pavilion at the World Expo.”

Upon reading this, Ms. Wang Yi followed Mr. Hua Chunhui’s post and wrote from her home in Wuxi: “Angry youth, charge!” (The original [tweet] text did not include the three words “Hurry, go smash” – which were added into Reeducation-Through-Labor decision by the Xinxiang government.)

Based on this, the Reeducation-Through-Labor Committee of Xinxiang Municipal People’s Government,Henan Province, in its Decision on Reeducation-Through-Labor [2010] no. 186, issued on November 12, 2010, took a forcible administrative measure against Ms. Wang Yi (Ms. Cheng Jianping) in the form of one year of Reeducation-Through-Labor. Ms. Wang Yi was forced into the Henan Provincial Women’s Center for Reeducation-Through-Labor on November 16, 2010, and has been there since.

After Ms. Wang Yi (Cheng Jianping) was “found guilty for tweeting,” we, as her attorneys, have visited relevantgovernment departments in Henan Province numerous times to report the situation. We have also sent letters to persons in charge of the Henan Provincial People’s Government and Xinxiang Municipal People’s Government in the hope that she be determined not guilty and set free immediately. But there has been no response.

We went twice (on December 1 and December 20, 2010)to the Hongqi District People’s Court, which has jurisdiction over the case – as the Hongqi District is the location of the administrative organ in the Henan Province Xinxiang Municipal People’s Government that made this Reeducation-Through-Labor decision [namely, the Xinxiang Municipal Reeducation-Through-Labor Committee (新乡市劳动教养管理委员会)] –to file a legal case, requesting the defendant Xinxiang Municipal People’s Government of Henan Province to immediately withdraw the unlawful Reeducation-Through-Labor decision against Ms. Cheng Jianping. The Hongqi District People’s Court in Xinxiang City, however, refused to accept the case without giving any reason. We then had to file the case through mail. But there has been no response whatsoever.

During this time, we also filed complaints with government institutions, including the Xinxiang Municipal People’s Procuratorate, Xinxiang Municipal People’s Congress, and the Xinxiang Communist Party Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, against Hongqi District People’s Court’s unlawful refusal to accept our case. Until now we have received no clear response.

There is no doubt that Ms. Wang Yi’s case sets a precedent as the first mainland Chinese Twitter user to be criminally punished by a local government in Henan for sending a normal tweet. This case has already received widespread attention in the international community and is being aggressively covered by the free press of the world.

This event will undoubtedly have anextremelynegative impact on Twitter in China. We believe that there is a clear-cut universal principle: One person’s loss of liberty signifies everyone’s loss of liberty. Once Wang Yi’s Reeducation-Through-Labor sentence for tweeting serves as a precedent for punishing Twitter users, the message it sends about tweeting is self-evident. This cannot but attract the attention and consideration of everyone, including Twitter and all Twitter users.

We feel that the Henan Province Xinxiang Municipal Government’s criminal punishment of Ms. Wang Yi because of her tweet satirizing China’s “angry youth” is not only a crude trampling of Ms. Wang Yi’s basic human rights, such as her lawful right to freespeech and expression, but also a violation ofthe relevant provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed. Further, it constitutes clear harassment of you and an infringement on the lawful business activities in which Twitter, the company you created, engages. For this reason, we call on you and your company to initiate legal proceedings as soon as possible to protect your lawful interests, and take practical action to protect your loyal customers’, that is, Twitter users’, lawful and legitimate rights and interests. We believe that you, together with the concerned party Wang Yi, will prevail over this very difficult period.

We have no doubt of Twitter’s international influence. Many countries’ leaders, including U.S. President Obama, former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama, all have Twitter accounts. For this reason, in the Wang Yi “punished for tweeting” incident, we urge you and Twitter to use this global influence to play a unique, constructive role to help those whose human rights were violated and actively press for the unconditional release of Wang Yi and work toward a satisfactory resolution of the case. We are willing to work with Twitter in the realization of justice and a satisfactory outcome in this case.

Because we have no means of contacting you directly, and in light of other considerations, we have chosen to issue this letter on Human Rights in China’s website. Thank you for your understanding.


Your loyal customers and Twitter users,

Teng Biao, Professor
China Politics and Law University

Lan Zhixue, Lawyer
Beijing Jiafa Law Firm

January 8, 2011, Beijing

Message related to your tweet

@yokel007: Upon learning that Cheng Jianping received a one-year sentence of Reeducation-Through-Labor due to her post “Angry youth, charge!”, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tweeted his support for this Chinese woman. Costolo wrote: “Dear Chinese Government, year-long detentions for sending a sarcastic tweet are neither the way forward nor the future of your great people.”
Posted by leo5029 17:55:38 Dec 3rd, 2010 via 敏感词

1. Administrative complaint as mailed by Teng and Lan



程建萍 女 汉族 1964年5月15日出生 居民身份证号:410728196405157566 身份证地址:河南省长垣县蒲东区东关街北辛庄 经常居住地:无锡市南长区薛家弄48号302号室,自由撰稿人

腾彪 中国政法大学教师 电话:18601278870

兰志学律师 北京市佳法律师事务所 电话:13001251152 地址:北京市丰台区东铁营横六条十九号 邮编:100078

新乡市人民政府劳动教养委员会 法定代表人:孟钢 职务:主任



1, 依法撤销河南省新乡市人民政府劳动教养委员会新劳决字[2010]第186号劳动教养决定,立即解除其具体行政违法行为并释放原告人程建萍女士

2, 承担本案诉讼费用


















2010 年12月 26 日

2. Explanation of “angry youth”




3. RTL decision issued by the Xinxiang Municipal Reeducation-Through-Labor Committee


4. Administrative punishment decision [for Wang Yi] issued by the Changnan Precinct of the Wuxi Public Security Bureau


5. Original text of Wang Yi’s tweet


说明:@wxhch 代表原告人的未婚夫华春辉的网络名称.“反日游行,,,世博园的日本馆”为华春辉先生的原贴。
[link to original tweet]


Error | Human Rights in China 中国人权 | HRIC


The website encountered an unexpected error. Please try again later.