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Chinese student sentenced to prison in US for threatening pro-democracy activist

A Chinese music student was sentenced on Wednesday to nine months in a US prison for harassing an activist who posted flyers at Boston's Berklee College of Music supporting democracy in China.

Prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Denise Casper of Boston to impose a nearly three-year prison sentence on 26-year-old Xiaolei Wu to send a message that the United States will not tolerate China's attempts to silence people of Chinese descent. Chinese who express opinions contrary to the government.

In imposing a shorter sentence, Casper mentioned that Wu's campaign of harassment, while “blatant,” was short-lived — just two days — and that Wu, with no criminal record, would be deported when his sentence ended.

She reasoned, however, that a prison sentence was warranted to deter other Chinese citizens in the United States and ensure that they know that “no one can engage in criminal conduct, especially to suppress freedom of expression.”

Western and U.S. officials are working to combat attempts by China's government to silence its critics abroad. Human rights groups complain of threats to academic freedom and monitoring of Chinese students on international university campuses.

Wu, who was in the U.S. on a student visa, was convicted by a jury in January on charges of cyberstalking and threats in what prosecutors said was a campaign to harass a recent Berklee graduate, known only as Zooey in court.

He did this after seeing a photo on Instagram, posted by the activist in October 2022, of a flyer she placed on the campus of the private music college with the words “We want freedom”, “We want democracy” and “We support the Chinese people”. .

In response, Wu posted in a 300-person chat among Chinese Berklee students and alumni on the social media app WeChat a demand that she take down the “reactionary” flyers and threatened to cut off her hands if she posted any more.

Prosecutors said he made other threats and claimed to have reported her to a Chinese public security agency, a threat he carried out by reporting her to her mother, a Chinese government official.

Wu, a guitarist who studied jazz, apologized in court on Wednesday for his “reckless behavior,” saying he needed to “take responsibility and accept” what he did.

“For making Zoey feel threatened, I am truly sorry,” he said.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston)

Source: CNN Brasil

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