Chinese Student Jailed in US for Threatening Pro-Democracy Activist

A Chinese student studying in the United States has been sentenced to nine months in prison for stalking and threatening a fellow Chinese student who had put up pro-democracy fliers on their campus.

The incident occurred at Berklee College of Music in Boston in late 2022 when pro-democracy fliers advocating for freedom and democracy in China were posted. In response to these fliers, Xiaolei Wu, a 26-year-old student at the college, made threatening remarks, stating he would “chop [the woman’s] hands off.”

Following an investigation by the FBI’s Boston Division, Wu was charged in December 2022 and convicted in January this year. Jodi Cohen, who leads the FBI’s Boston Division, described Wu’s actions as “incredibly disturbing” and emphasized the weaponization of China’s authoritarian nature to threaten the victim.

The court heard that Wu, who was studying jazz at the university, directly communicated with the victim through email and social media platforms such as WeChat and Instagram. He threatened to inform Chinese authorities about her actions and claimed that China’s public security agency would take action against her family.

Additionally, Wu attempted to track down the victim and publicly posted her email address, intending for others to harass her online. Acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy emphasized that Wu’s threats instilled fear in the victim and others who might seek to speak out against the Chinese government.

The conviction highlights the seriousness with which the US authorities view threats to freedom of expression and underscores their commitment to upholding First Amendment rights. The charge of cyberstalking carries significant penalties in the US, including up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and substantial fines.

Wu’s sentencing to nine months in prison, followed by deportation, serves as a deterrent against attempts to intimidate and suppress dissenting voices, reaffirming the principles of free speech and democracy upheld in the United States.

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