Chen Mei and Cai Wei had created an online forum and archive where censored articles from the Chinese Internet were stored.
Two amateur programmers in China have pleaded guilty to “causing problems and disputes” in a case that highlighted Beijing’s growing crackdown on online activity.
Chen Mei, 28, and Cai Wei, 27, created an online archive where censored articles were stored from the Chinese Internet and a companion forum that allowed people to discuss them anonymously.
On Tuesday in court, prosecutors were reduced to £ 2049, the forum that accompanied the file, Chen’s mother, Wei Xiuwen, told reporters outside the court.
He said prosecutors told the court that Cai was responsible for building a website that had insulted the government and that Chen had paid for it.
Family and friends believe that what put the two men in trouble was filing articles that showed an alternative to China’s official narrative about its response to the coronavirus just as the country began to face questions about its outbreak management. initial.
The case was tried in Wenyuhe People’s Court on the northeastern outskirts of Beijing. The court said the sentence would come later.
The accusation of “causing problems and disputes” is a widespread accusation that is often used in politically sensitive cases.
Chen’s mother, who traveled from northwestern Shaanxi Province to attend the hearing, said her son wore a full-length medical protective suit and had his hands clenched and his feet tied.
He knew who his son was as he is shorter than Cai but he could not make any eye contact. The only time his son spoke was to plead guilty, he said.
The two men have been detained for more than a year since authorities arrested them without warning in April 2020, along with Cai Tang Hongbo’s girlfriend.
Family and friends only knew something wasn’t working when they realized they hadn’t had any contact with any of them three in days. Tang was later released after it became clear she was unaware of the work of others online.
Their parents had not seen them for more than a year, as they both lived in Beijing for work. Throughout the process, families pressed for the two to have access to their own lawyers, but the court appointed them lawyers.
“If I can take the consequences for him, I would,” Cai’s father, Cai Jianli, of Guangdong Province in southern China, said.
Parents could not talk to their children.
Cai Jianli said court-appointed lawyers told them to shut up in court.
Cai and Chen created the archive in 2018, retaining hundreds of censored articles. The forum saw discussions on delicate issues that could not be freely discussed on the Chinese Internet, including anti-government protests in Hong Kong and complaints about the ruling Communist Party.
Forum users also discussed the pandemic after cases were detected in Wuhan for the first time in late 2019.
Terminus2049, the archive itself, mainly contained articles that had been deleted from Wechat and Weibo, popular social networking platforms that are subject to regular algorithmic and human censorship.
Although similar databases existed, most were blocked in China. Terminus2049 was available on Github, a non-blocked code-sharing platform.
The forum and archive never had a substantial scope, but the case has caught the attention of some.
A supporter waited outside the court on Tuesday to give two bouquets of chamomile flowers to the parents. The 25-year-old, who refused to be named for fear of repercussions, said she thought the two men had done a service to society during the pandemic showing there was more than one official story.