Reporters Without Borders has expressed outrage after two cyberdissidents, Kong Youping and Ning Xianhua, were sentenced respectively to 15 and 12 years in prison by a court in Shenyang in Liaoning province in the north-east of the country.
They were both accused of "subversion of state power" for posting articles on the Internet in support of the Chinese Democratic Party (CDP). The cyberdissident Xu Guang, also a member of the CDP, was released just two days earlier after serving a five-year jail term.
"These sentences are the latest in a long list of repressive measures the Chinese government has taken recently to stifle freedom of expression on the Internet," said the international press freedom organisation in reaction to the 16 September 2004 sentences.
Kong Youping was arrested in December 2003 for posting five articles and seven poems on a foreign website challenging the official version of the Beijing Spring and criticising corruption among political leaders. He had also called for the release of the young Internet-user Liu Di, who was released in November 2003.
Xu Guang had been arrested in June 1999 with three other cyberdissidents, Mao Qingxiang, Zhu Yufu and Wu Yilong. The four CDP activists were sentenced by the Hangzhou intermediate court in Zhejiang province in the east of the country for "subversion" for circulating pro-democracy articles on the Internet and for their work with the magazine Zai Yedang (Opposition Party). Mao Qingxiang was sentenced to eight years in prison, Zhu Yufu to seven years and Wu Yilong to 11. They are all still in prison.
The CDP, founded in 1998, is an underground opposition party. Around 30 of its activists are currently behind bars.