Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the release of journalist and cyber-dissident Liu Shui on 1 November, six months before he was due to complete the two-year sentence of reeducation through work which he received in May 2004.
According to the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), Liu was given only several hours warning that he was to be released from the Xili reeducation camp in the southern province of Guangdong. He had to sign a statement undertaking not to “lie” about his trial and conditions in the camp.
Some of his personal effects, including his writings while in detention, were confiscated by the police without any explanation. His family said he appeared very debilitated by a year and half in detention.
Liu, who used to contribute to the Shenzhen Evening News, was arrested on 2 May 2004 for posting articles on the Internet criticising abuses by the police and other officials. The sentence of two years of reeducation was imposed the same day by the Shenzhen public security bureau without any trial taking place.
Two cyberdissidents sentenced
US-resident Yang Jianli was sentenced on 13 May to five years in prison for "espionage" and "illegally entering Chinese territory", after more than two years of imprisonment awaiting sentence.
Journalist Liu Shui was on 2 May sentenced without trial to two years in a re-education camp. Officially accused of seeking the services of several prostitutes, Liu was in fact sentenced for posting sensitive items on the Internet, particularly on the Tiananmen Square massacres.
Reporters Without Borders reacted angrily to the two sentences. "The Chinese authorities do not let up in their crackdown on free expression. To sentence Yang Li for spying for Taiwan and Lui Shiu for a moral issue is the height of absurdity, a clumsy cover for gagging political dissidents, the organisation said.
Yang, now 40, was expelled from China after taking part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. He became a permanent resident of the US and created the 21st Century Foundation for China that works to promote democracy in the people’s republic. The cyberdissident is also editor of the dissident online review Yibao (www.chinaeweekly.com).
He was arrested in April 2002 when he returned to China, using a friend’s passport, to investigate industrial unrest in the north-east of the country. At the end of his trial, on 4 August 2003, the verdict was postponed.
Under Chinese criminal code, the authorities had four months to decide. The deadline passed five months ago, making the continued detention of Yang an infringement of Chinese law. As his sentence was pronounced Yang argued that his trial broke Chinese law and that he had been illegally detained for 164 days.
His wife, Christina Fu, a US national who lives with their two children in Massachusetts., told Reporters Without Borders, "I am very sad. I know my husband is not a spy. I also know that it could have been worse but I was hoping he would be expelled. His father is 90 and he can’t be sure he will see him again. We are going to hold a press conference in Washington very soon to seek help from US and international authorities." She said no decision had yet been taken about an appeal but it was "probable".
Freelance journalist Liu Shui, 37, was arrested in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province in the south of the country. He worked for the Southern Metropolitan News and the Shenzhen Evening News. Sentenced to two years in a re-education camp, he was punished under a high-speed procedure used in cases of minor offences.
Liu was previously imprisoned 15 months after taking part in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations, for three years in 1994 for "counter-revolutionary propaganda", then briefly again in 1998. On 19 March 2004, another cyberdissident Ma Yalian was sentenced to 18 months in a work re-education camp.