Reporters Without Borders described as "shocking" the opening on 18 May of the trial of Du Daobin for "incitement to subversion" before the intermediate peoples’ court in the city of Xiaogan, Hubei province, central China.
Du’s lawyer Mo Shaoping who was only notified on 14 May found it impossible to reach the city in time and Du was therefore appointed a lawyer, Li Zongyi. This lawyer refused to enter a not guilty plea, despite the demands of the cyberdissident. The trial was held behind closed doors.
The international press freedom organisation condemned the denial of his right to a fair trial. "The authorities forced Du to plead guilty, showing their willingness to employ any means to silence dissident voices," it said.
It was not the first time that Du Daobin had been deprived of a lawyer. One 3 November 2003, his counsel Li Qingqiang had his licence withdrawn by his own law firm, preventing him from defending his client. Du then chose Mo Shaoping, only to be in turn deprived of his services.
Du Daobin, 40, was arrested on his way home on 28 October 2003. Police seized computer equipment, hand-written letters, address books and foreign-published books. They also "strongly advised" his wife, Xia Chun-rong, and 12-year-old son to have no contact with foreign journalists. Police also told Xia that her husband had gone "too far".
Du posted a large number of pacifist articles on the Internet arguing for greater freedom of expression in China. He actively called for the release of student Liu Di, who was imprisoned for posting articles on online forums calling for democracy in China. She was released on 28 November 2003 after more than a year of imprisonment without trial.
The prosecutor’s office in Xiaogan told police on 10 February 2003 that there was not enough evidence to charge Du with "incitement to subversion". His file thus went back to the Public Security office.
A week later, after nearly four months in custody, Du’s arrest was made official. He was then charged by Hubei province public security office with "incitement to subversion and to the overthrow of the Chinese socialist system", in relation to around 30 online articles.