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China 16 March 2005

Outrage over travesty of justice for journalist Shi Tao

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the travesty of justice in which dissident journalist Shi Tao appeared before the state prosecutor in the southern city of Changsha in a secret, two-hour hearing on 11 March and was found guilty of "illegally divulging state secrets abroad."

Sentencing is due on 25 March at the latest. He reportedly faces the possibility of being sentenced to between 10 years and life imprisonment.

Shi was able to see his mother and brother for 10 minutes after the hearing. Seeing that he was suffering from flu, they wanted to provide him with medicine but the authorities refused.

Shi’s lawyer, Guo Guoting, was banned from practising for a year on 4 March by the justice department in the eastern city of Shanghai, so Shi was represented at the hearing by one of Guo Guoting’s colleagues.


Journalist faces possible life sentence for posting Tiananmen document on website

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the charge of "illegally divulging state secrets abroad" that was brought against journalist and poet Shi Tao on 28 January for posting an official document relating to the June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre on a foreign website. Shi, who has been detained since November, faces a sentence of between three years and life imprisonment if convicted.

The press freedom organization said it was "absolutely scandalous" that China has imprisoned a journalist for trying to inform people around the world about Tiananmen at a moment when the European Union is considering lifting the arms embargo that was imposed after the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators.

This shows how forcefully the Chinese Communist Party opposes any democratic opening, Reporters Without Borders said, announcing that it will ask for Shi’s case to be raised at the next EU-China dialogue meeting on 24-25 February in Luxembourg.

Shi worked for the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News), based in the southern province of Hunan. The charges against him, brought to the court by the office of the people’s prosecutor in Changsha, the capital of Hunan, relate to an official document and articles he posted on websites and discussion forums based outside China.

In April 2004, Shi sent the dissident online newspaper Min Zhu Ton Xun the abstract note of a document sent to his newspaper by the authorities warning journalists of the dangers of social destabilisation and risks linked to the return of certain dissidents on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Shi used a pseudonym to post his note, but state security ministry agents identified him thanks to the filters installed on the Chinese Internet. The ministry told the prosecutor the document was "Jue Mi" (top secret). Shi’s lawyer, Thomas Guo, says Shi acknowledges sending his note but disputes its confidential nature.

Guo visited Shi on 25 January and he said Shi was in good physical and mental condition. "The law on state secrets is not very clear," he said. "As a result, the interpretation of the concept of so-called secrets is vague. It is therefore very easy for the authorities to use this law against journalists who speak their mind."

Shi is currently held in Changsha after being arrested in Taiyuan in the northeastern province of Shanxi on 24 November. At the time of his arrest, the police told his wife, Wang Huan, not to tell anyone, especially not the news media, or else her husband would be mistreated.

Dissident journalist Yang Tianshui was meanwhile provisionally released on 25 January after being held for a month in Hangzhou, the capital of the southeastern province of Zhejiang. Charged with "inciting subversion of the state," he must remain available to the authorities and live at the home of his sister, who has assumed responsibility for him.

Reporters Without Borders said it was calling for the lifting of all the charges against Yang, whose articles have been posted on the Internet and in the Chinese-language edition of Epoch Times, a daily newspaper published abroad. He recently wrote about the torture of human rights activists and the protection which the authorities have afforded to certain criminals.

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