First, a summary of the facts of the case:
- September 23, 2019: Zhang Zhixiang posted the following statement to a Wechat group: "文明社会，暴政的共匪不会长期存." The English translation of this would be along the lines of "In a civilized society, tyrannical [WORD IN DISPUTE] will not survive for long." More about the "WORD IN DISPUTE" later.
- September 24, 2019: the Public Security Bureau of Dongzhi launched an investigation and summoned Zhang to the Nixi Police Station for questioning on suspicion that his post had constituted a disturbance of the peace (涉嫌寻衅滋事).
- November 22, 2019: the Public Security Bureau of Dongzhi issued an administrative penalty notification to Zhang Zhixiang, informing him of the matters which would be subject to punishment, and asking him whether he wished to submit a statement and defense. Zhang stated he would not make a statement in his defense.
- November 23, 2019: the Public Security Bureau of Dongzhi issued an administrative penalty decision ordering Zhang to serve five days in administrative detention.
- January 13, 2020: Zhang filed an appeal with the People’s Court of Dongzhi, Anhui requesting the administrative punishment decision be revoked.
- The People’s Court of Dongzhi rejected Zhang's appeal, so Zhang appealed again to the Intermediate People's Court of Chizhou, Anhui, which also rejected his appeal.
So far there is nothing special about this case. Arrest and imprisonment by police without trial or legal representation for insulting the Communist Party of China and its leaders is so commonplace that this case would normally not warrant any particular comment. Nor is it unusual for those who are jailed by the police for their speech to file an appeal in court. And they almost always lose. See, for example "At Least 10 People Convicted in China in 2019 for Twitter Posts that "Disturbed the Peace."
What makes this case noteworthy is Zhang's basis for requesting the courts revoke the Public Security Bureau's punishment. Here is how the People’s Court of Dongzhi summarized it:
Because the New Rural Cooperative Medical Insurance Company failed to reimburse plaintiff Zhang Zhixiang in a timely manner after he suffered from a malignant tumor of the right kidney, he posted inappropriate political statements like "In a civilized society, tyrannical [WORD IN DISPUTE] will not survive for long" on the "B-Side Observation Group 1" (344 people in total) which was clearly illegal and constituted other acts of disturbing the peace. Plaintiff argued that the remarks he posted on the Internet had nothing to do with the governing party or government of China, and that what was online referred to the Republican government of the United States.
And here's how the Intermediate People's Court of Chizhou, Anhui summarized it (this time apparently with Zhang referring to himself in the first person):
I was referring to the current United States President and Republican Party leader Donald Trump's government's supporting "Hong Kong Independence" activists, damaging "One Country Two Systems," bring chaos to my China, and furthering the realization of global hegemonism. The statements I posted online had nothing to do with China's governing party or government, and what was online was referring to the United States Republican Party government.
Zhang's argument had some basis, at least from a purely linguistic perspective. He was claiming that the word "共匪" refers to "Republican Bandits" and not "Communist Bandits." There no dispute that the second character "匪" refers to "bandits." So the only question is whether the first character "共" could possibly refer to "Republicans."
As the screenshot below shows, in Chinese "Republican Party" and "Communist Party" share the same first character - "共."
So the word "共匪" could, in theory, refer to either "Republican Bandit" or "Communist Bandit."
Unfortunately for Zhang, neither court was prepared to accept this argument. The odds were always against Zhang, because the term "共匪" has a long history of being used to refer to the Communist Party of China. Historical roots for the term "共匪" go back to the Kuomintang government in the 1920s, and Chiang Kaishek used that term several times in his book "Soviet Russia In China" - (苏俄在中国).
Even today the term is censored on PRC websites. For example, this screenshot shows that Baidu will not even provide a translation for the term.
安徽省池州市中级人民法院行 政 判 决 书（2020）皖17行终31号