Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the Chinese justice ministry’s decision to commute the life sentence imposed on journalist Wu Shishen in 1993 at former President Jiang Zemin’s behest for "illegally divulging state secrets" abroad. According to the Chinese political prisoners defence group Dui Hua, he is to be freed on 10 July 2005.
"This is excellent news," Reporters Without Borders said in a letter to justice minister Zhang Fusen. "We hope your government will grant clemency to the dozens of other journalists and cyber-dissents who are serving heavy sentences for no good reason."
The press freedom organisation also thanked international news media which had adopted Wu as part of the sponsorship of imprisoned journalists.
A journalist with the official news agency Xinhua, Wu was arrested on 26 October 1992 along with his wife, fellow journalist Ma Tao, who spent six years in detention.
He was detained for giving Leug Wai-man, a journalist with the Hong Kong Express, the text of a speech President Jiang Zemin delivered a few days later to the 14th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The speech was broadcast a week later on television. Nonetheless, Wu was sentenced on 6 November 1992 to 10 years in prison.
On Jiang’s direct orders, an appeal court on 30 August 1993 increased his sentence to life imprisonment with permanent forfeiture of political rights. Aged 43, Wu is now held in Beijing’s No. 2 prison along with some 2,000 other detainees.
The reduction of his sentence comes a month after Zhao Yan, a Chinese researcher for The New York Times, was formally arrested on 20 October on a charge of divulging state secrets, for which the maximum penalty is death. Despite the New York Time’s denials, he is accused of revealing to the newspaper that former President Jiang was resigning as head of the central military commission before it was officially announced.