A former student of the Berklee College of Music, Xiaolei Wu, has been sentenced to nine months in prison following threats made against a pro-democracy activist on campus. The court’s decision came after Wu was found guilty of stalking and making interstate threats against a fellow student who had posted flyers advocating for democratic reforms in China. The sentencing reflects the serious nature of the threats, which aimed to suppress free expression through intimidation.

In October, the activist, a U.S. permanent resident of Chinese origin, posted flyers on the Boston campus promoting democratic values with slogans like “Stand with Chinese People” and “We Want Freedom.” In retaliation, Wu threatened physical harm, took steps to expose the activist’s personal information, and reported their family to Chinese authorities, leveraging the fear of governmental retribution to silence them.

Response from Legal and Community Figures

The case was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, where acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy emphasized the severity of using threats to stifle freedom of speech. He pointed out that Wu’s actions were particularly egregious as they involved weaponizing the fear of a foreign government’s retribution to suppress peaceful advocacy for democracy. The court also imposed a three-year supervised release following Wu’s prison term, highlighting the commitment to protecting individuals’ rights to free expression.

Jodi Cohen, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, also commented on the case, noting the disturbing nature of Wu’s actions. She stated that the case should serve as a reminder of the consequences of harassing and threatening individuals for their political views, especially when such actions involve leveraging the authoritarian elements of a foreign regime.