Two amateur computer coders have pleaded guilty to “escalating trouble and aggravation” in a case that exposed rising Chinese government action on online activity
BEIJING – Two amateur computer coders pleaded guilty on Tuesday to “escalating trouble and stirring” in a case that exposed rising Chinese government action on online activity.
Chen Mei, 28, and Cai Wei, 27, created an online archive that censored articles from the Chinese Internet, and together a forum that allowed people to discuss anonymously.
In court, prosecutors zeroed the stage with the collection at 2049bbs. He said that Kai was responsible for creating a website insulting the government, and that Chen had paid for it, Chen’s mother Wei Shiuwen told reporters outside the courtroom.
The case was tried in Wenyuhe People’s Court in the northeastern region of Beijing. The court said that the sentence will come later.
The accusation is “catch-all trouble and aggravation” a catch-all accusation often used for politically sensitive cases.
Chen’s mother, who had come from northwestern Shaanxi Province to attend Shravan, said that her son wore a full-body medical protective suit and that his arms and legs were torn. She can tell whose son he was, because he is younger than Cai, but was unable to make eye contact. He said that only his son pleaded guilty.
Authorities have held the two men for more than a year since they were detained in April 2020 with imprisoned girlfriend Tang Hongbo without warning. Family and friends knew something was wrong when they realized that they had no contact with anyone in three days. Tang was later released as it became clear that she did not know about the work of others online.
His parents had not seen him for over a year, as both lived in Beijing for work. During this process, families pressed for both to have access to their own lawyers, but the court hired lawyers instead of them.
“If I can get results for him, I will,” Cai’s father, Cai Jianli, from Guangdong province in southern China.
The parents were unable to talk to their children. Cai Jianli said that the court-appointed lawyers told him to remain silent in the court.
Cai and Chen archived hundreds of censored articles in 2018. The forum discussed sensitive issues that could not be freely discussed on the Chinese Internet, including anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong and complaints from the ruling Communist Party. Forum users also discussed the epidemic after cases first surfaced in Wuhan in late 2019.
Terminus2049, Archive, Mainly Articles, which were removed from WeChat and Weibo, popular social media platforms that are subject to regular algorithms and human censorship. While similar databases existed, most were blocked in China. Terminus 2049 was available on Github, a code-sharing platform that is not blocked.
The Forum and Archive never had a large reach, but the case has attracted some attention.
A supporter waited outside the court on Tuesday to give the parents two bouquets of chamomile. The 25-year-old, who refused to change the name for fear of a withdrawal, said she thought the two men had done a service to society during the epidemic, which showed that there is more than one official story.
Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press news assistant Caroline Chen contributed to this story.