Translation: State v. Huang Qunwei - Fabricating False Terrorist Information About SARS and Intentionally Posting It on the Internet
NOTE: This post was published on December 5, 2020, but this post is dated the date the court judgment was issued in order to prevent confusion.
First Intermediate People's Court of Beijing
(2003) First Intermediate First Instance No. 14991
The public prosecution agency was the People's Procuratorate of Beijing Branch No. 1.
Defendant Huang Qunwei, male, 25 years old (born [INTENTIONALLY DELETED], 1978), Han ethnicity, place of birth Beijing, associates degree, unemployed, residing at Qinghuayuan, Zhongguancun, Haidian District, Beijing. On May 3, 2003 he was taken into custody on suspicion of committing the crime of fabricating false terrorist information and was granted bail on the same day. On May 8 of the same year he was taken into criminal detention, and was arrested on May 16. He is currently being held in custody at the Beijing Detention Center.
Appointed defense counsel Xu Lanting is a lawyer at the Beijing Junzejun Law Firm.
In the Jing Procuratorate Branch 1 Criminal Indictment (2003) No. 95 indictment the People's Procuratorate of Beijing Branch No. 1 charged defendant Huang Qunwei committing the crime of fabricating false terrorist information, and on May 27, 2003 filed a public prosecution with this Court. This Court formed a collegial panel in accordance with the law, and convened public hearings to try this case. The People's Procuratorate of Beijing Branch No. 1 assigned Procurator Zhu Lan and Acting Procurator Li Hong to appear in court in support of the public prosecution, and defendant Huang Qunwei and his assigned defense counsel Xu Lanting appeared in court to participate in the proceedings. The trial has now concluded.
The People's Procuratorate of Beijing Branch No. 1 charged that from April 25 to May 2, 2003, defendant Huang Qunwei at his home at [INTENTIONALLY DELETED], Qinghuayuan, Zhongguancun, Haidian District, Beijing, took advantage of a period of time when there was a peak in the SARS epidemic in Beijing and it was easy to instill psychological panic in people to fabricate articles without any factual basis with titles such as: "Absolutely Reliable News, Shanghai Concealed a Large Number of SARS Cases," "China has Officially Entered an Economic Crisis Due to SARS," and "With This Kind of Security, Take the Opportunity Created by SARS to Make Money," and used a home computer to log into the Internet by dialing from his home phone to spread them on the Internet.
The People's Procuratorate of Beijing Branch No. 1 transferred evidence of the crimes charged against defendant Huang Qunwei to this Court including witness testimony, search records, forensic conclusions, and the defendant's statements. It believes that defendant Huang Qunwei actions were an offense under the provisions of Article 291-1 of the "Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China" and constitute fabricating false terrorist information, and it requests this Court impose punishment in accordance with the law.
In court during the trial defendant Huang Qunwei did not raise any objections to the criminal facts charged by the public prosecution agency. Defendant Huang Qunwei's defense counsel believes that the article "With This Kind of Security, Take the Opportunity Created by SARS to Make Money," which the public prosecution agency charged Huang Qunwei with authoring, should not be deemed terrorist information, and that after being taken into custody Huang Qunwei was able to proactively and thoroughly come clean regarding all the criminal facts and express regret for his crimes, and asks the court to show leniency to Huang Qunwei.
It was ascertained at trial: From April 25 to April 27, 2003, defendant Huang Qunwei at his home at [INTENTIONALLY DELETED], Qinghuayuan, Zhongguancun, Haidian District, Beijing, took advantage of a period of time when there was a peak in the SARS epidemic in Beijing and it was easy to instill psychological panic in people to fabricate articles without any factual basis with titles such as: "Absolutely Reliable News, Shanghai Concealed a Large Number of SARS Cases" and "China has Officially Entered an Economic Crisis Due to SARS" and used a home computer to log into the Internet by dialing from his home phone. He went online and posted several times on forums such as the "Sohu website" news commentary forum web page and the "Xilu website's" "Sea and Sky" lying that China's Shanghai already head hundreds of "SARS" fatalities, that over 3,000 people had died nationwide, and encouraged people to stockpile. This created an atmosphere of terror and severely disrupted social order. On May 3, 2003, defendant Huang Qunwei was apprehended and brought to justice.
The aforementioned facts have been affirmed by this Court by the following evidence which has been produced, examined, and substantiated in court:
1. The testimony of witness Huang Huaiwei proved: Recently, his younger brother Huang Qunwei often used a home-built computer to go online at home. Huang Qunwei usually went online after dinner, and often went to some forums to download comments made by other Internet users on a certain issue. After Huang Qunwei was released on bail by a public security agency awaiting trial, he told him that it was because he of the articles he posted online saying more than 400 people died of "SARS" in Shanghai, prices soared, and security guards using "SARS" to make money.
2. Search record and lists of seized items proved: On May 3, 2003, public security personnel seized one desktop computer from the southern living room of Huang Qunwei's home during the process of a search in accordance with the law.
3. One home computer was produced in court, and was identified by defendant Huang Qunwei in court and confirmed as the tool used by him in the commission of this case.
4. The Network Monitoring (2003) No. 28 forensic results produced by the Public Security Bureau of Beijing's Public Information Network Security Monitoring Detachment proved: An analysis of the computer used by Huang Qunwei found the contents of two articles on the machine: "absolutely reliable information, Shanghai has concealed a large number of SARS cases" and "China has officially entered an economic crisis due to SARS." Huang Qunwei used the online alias "zzzzxxxxzz" on the "Xilu website."
5. The evidentiary materials and download recordal materials produced by the Sohu Aitexin Information Technology (Beijing) Co., Ltd. proved: Around April 25, 2003, an Internet user with the alias "Head-on Attack" published an article titled "Absolutely reliable news, Shanghai conceals a large number of SARS cases" on Sohu.com's Society and Humanities forum. Around April 27, they used the same alias to post "China has entered an economic crisis due to SARS" on Sohu.com (the forum is unknown), and then changed the title to "Shanghai conceals a large number of SARS cases." A thorough search found the aforementioned three articles posted by an Internet user with the alias "Head-on Attack," and a recordal was made. The aforementioned articles were posted at the following times (respectively): 22:46, 23:04, and 23:38 on April 25, 2003; 19:30, 23:28, 23:32, 23:41, and 23:51 on April 26, 2003; and 21:02 on April 27, 2003.
6. The evidentiary materials produced by the Beijing Xilu Information Technology Co., Ltd. proved: (i) At 18:58 on April 26, 2003, a user named "zzzzxxxxzz" registered and published on the "Xilu Network" [www.xilu.com] Forum Haikuotian [skysea.xilubbs.com] with the subject "Absolutely Reliable Inside Information" the article "Shanghai conceals a large number of SARS Cases," the IP address was [18.104.22.168], when the security monitor on duty on Xilu deleted the article at 20:42 that day, the click rate was 945; (ii) At 23:42 on April 26, 2003, a registered user named [hushuoya] published an article titled "China Has Truly Entered an Economic Crisis Due to SARS" on the "Xilu Network" forum [skysea.xilubbs.com], the IP address was [22.214.171.124], when the security supervisor on duty on Xilu deleted the article, the click rate was 386.
7. The evidentiary materials produced by the Beijing Changjie Network Communication Co., Ltd. prove: At 23:04 on April 25, 2003, the dialing number using that company's IP address was the phone number of defendant Huang Qunwei's home.
8. The apprehension process produced by the Public Security Bureau of Beijing proved: Huang Qunwei was apprehended at around 11:00 am on May 3, 2003 at [INTENTIONALLY DELETED], Qinghuayuan, Hadian District, Beijing.
9. Defendant Huang Qunwei's statements regarding the time, place, circumstances, and methods of the commission of the case correspond to the aforementioned evidence and are mutually corroborating.
This Court finds defendant Huang Qunwei intentionally fabricated false terrorist information and intentionally posted and publicized it on the Internet at a particular period of time when China's people were fighting the "SARS" epidemic, severely disrupting social order. His actions constitute the crime of fabricating and intentionally publicizing false terrorist information, and he shall be punished in accordance with the law.
With respect to the defense opinion proffered by defendant Huang Qunwei's defense counsel that the content of the "With This Kind of Security, Take the Opportunity Created by SARS to Make Money " article which the indictment charged Huang Qunwei with publishing online was not terrorist information, the rationale is established and is accepted by this Court. But with respect to the defense opinion requesting Huang Qunwei be given a suspended sentence, in consideration of the specific circumstances of Huang Qunwei's crime a suspended sentence would be inappropriate, and therefore this Court does not accept it.
With respect to the People's Procuratorate of Beijing Branch No. 1's charges against defendant Huang Qunwei, the evidence that a crime has been committed is reliable. But the defendant both acted to fabricate false terrorist information and acted to disseminating it online, and therefore the offense charged by the public prosecution agency is insufficiently precise, and is amended by this Court. Accordingly, in accordance with the provisions of Article 8 of the Third Amendment to the "Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China," Articles 291-1, 61, and 64 of the "Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China," and Article 10(1) of the "Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate Interpretation on Several Issues Concerning the Specific Application of Law in Handling Criminal Cases of Obstructing the Prevention and Control of Emergent Infectious Diseases," the judgment is as follows:
1. Defendant Huang Qunwei committed the crime of fabricating and intentionally publicizing false terrorist information and is sentenced to a fixed term imprisonment of three years. (The prison term is to be calculated starting on the day the judgment is executed, and each day in custody prior to the execution of the judgment shall count as one day of the prison term, that is from May 8, 2003 to May 6, 2006).
2. One seized desktop computer used by defendant Huang Qunwei in the commission of the crime is confiscated.
If any party does not accept this judgment, they may within 10 days after the second day after receiving this written judgment bring an appeal through this Court or directly to the High People's Court of Beijing. A written appeal should be submitted with one original and three copies of the appeal brief.
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