US jails Chinese man who threatened student activist

Xiaolei Wu sits for an interview with the FBI
Xiaolei Wu sits for an interview with the FBI [Reuters]

A Chinese student in the US has been sentenced to nine months in prison for stalking and threatening a female Chinese student who put up pro-democracy fliers on campus.

The fliers, put up at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in late 2022, read: "We want freedom... We want democracy, we want to love, stand with Chinese people."

In response, Xiaolei Wu said he would "chop [the woman's] hands off".

A federal judge has ordered that the 26-year-old be deported after serving his sentence.

“What Mr. Wu did in weaponising the authoritarian nature of the People’s Republic of China to threaten this woman is incredibly disturbing," said Jodi Cohen, who leads the FBI’s Boston Division that investigated the case.

The pro-democracy fliers were put up in late October 2022 during a wave of activism among Chinese people abroad.

The court heard that Wu, who studied jazz at the university, communicated directly with his victim through email and social media platforms like WeChat and Instagram.

He told her that he had informed Chinese authorities about her actions and that China's public security agency would “greet” the victim’s family, the US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts said on Wednesday.

He also tried to track her down and publicly posted her email address, "in the hopes that others would abuse the victim online", said the authorities.

Wu was charged in December 2022.

During his conviction in January this year, Acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy said Wu's "violent threats achieved his goal of instiling fear" in his victim and others who might want to speak out against the Chinese government.

“Our office and the Department of Justice will not tolerate efforts to intimidate and threaten people to suppress their First Amendment rights. Censorship and repression campaigns will never be tolerated here," he said.

In the US, the charge of cyberstalking carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 (£202,000).

The same penalties apply to the charge of interstate transmission of threatening communications.