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China 20 October 2006

Court orders journalist freed but stops short of quashing his conviction

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the news that Yang Xiaoqing, a journalist based in Longhui in the southern province of Hunan, has been released as a result of a court decision in the nearby city of Shaoyang on 17 October. Detained since 22 January, Yang had been serving a one-year sentence for alleged extortion.

“Guilty but free - this decision is a half-measure that fails to cover up the fact that he was imprisoned for no reason,” the press freedom organisation said. “The Chinese judicial system seems to fear losing face. Convicted in Longhui and released in Shaoyang, he will have to go to the Hunan provincial court to get acquitted.”

Yang is the Longhui correspondent of Zhongguo Chanjing Xinwenbao (China Industrial Economy News) and an occasional contributor to Xianggang Shangbao (Hong Kong Commerce Daily). After writing two articles for Xianggang Shangbao about alleged corruption in the sale of a state-owned company, he was arrested and accused of trying to get the officials involved to pay him 800,000 yuan (81,000 euros) not to write the articles.

The one-year sentence was imposed by the Longhui people’s court on 15 June. When the case came before the Shaoyang intermediate people’s court on 17 October, Yang was not acquitted but he was exempted from serving his sentence.

His wife, Gong Jie, said supporters gathered outside the courthouse in Shaoyang chanting such slogans as, “Overthrow the corrupt officials.” When the court’s decision was announced, they hailed it as a first step towards victory and set off fireworks.

Yang’s family intends to appeal in order to get his conviction overturned.

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