Three years ago a physically disabled Chinese man unwittingly broke the law when he shot video of a military airbase in eastern China and uploaded the footage to his website. Huang Moumou’s subsequent arrest and conviction for leaking state secrets is a surprising wrinkle in the tale of China’s “accidental spies.” Civilians with cameras are Beijing’s preferred method of revealing military developments to the world. But only, it seems, when the civilians stick to the government’s script.
In August 2009 Huang
drove his handicap-access vehicle — presumably a truck with a wheelchair
ramp — from his home in an outlying county to visit his son, a worker in Fuzhou.
As he passed by the city’s main military airfield, Huang pointed his cameraphone
out the window and shot around a minute of video depicting “signage, airport
facilities and several military airplanes,” according to the press reports. A
pedestrian reportedly warned Huang that filming was illegal, but he kept right
Returning home, Huang uploaded the video to his blog. “This is the first time
I’ve seen airplanes, so I filmed it,” he wrote, adding, “I’m not a spy!” Fifteen
thousand people watched the video before police, alerted by China’s
web-monitoring Public Security Bureau, came knocking. On trial last month, Huang
pleaded guilty, apologized and was handed a suspended 14-month sentence.
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- Judy Chaffee
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