A Chinese court has sentenced a University of Minnesota student from Wuhan to six months in prison for anti-regime tweets he posted while in the U.S., Axios reported on Thursday.
The student, Luo Daiqing, was detained in July in Wuhan after returning home from the spring semester in Minnesota. Luo had posted several tweets critical of the Chinese regime and one of the government’s leaders, likely Xi Jinping.
“In September and October 2018, while he was studying at the University of Minnesota,” a court document obtained by Axios reads, Luo “used his Twitter account to post more than 40 comments denigrating a national leader’s image and indecent pictures” which “created a negative social impact.”
Some of the tweets superimposed Chinese government slogans over pictures of cartoon villain Lawrence Limburger, who resembles Xi, while others contained pictures of Winnie the Pooh, a character currently censored in China after bloggers used the character’s image to criticize Xi.
“The Chinese Communist Party ought to release Luo Daiqing immediately, and the University of Minnesota ought to give him a full-ride scholarship,” said Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) in a statement after hearing of the sentencing. “Don’t forget that the Chinese Communist Party has banned Twitter, so the only people who even saw these tweets were the goons charged with monitoring Chinese citizens while they’re enjoying freedom here in the United States. This is what ruthless and paranoid totalitarianism looks like.”
Human rights concerns and American officials’ objection to state censorship have complicated the Trump administration’s ongoing trade talks with Beijing.
In October, when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey posted one tweet in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, the Chinese Basketball Association immediately cut all ties with the team. The U.S. National Basketball Association apologized to China, drawing harsh condemnation from U.S. lawmakers.
President Trump reportedly told Xi that he would refrain from criticizing the regime’s human rights violations while trade talks were ongoing.