Reporters Without Borders expressed deep concern at the news that pro-democrat activist and cyberdissident Zhang Lin is facing serious charges. His wife, Fang Cao, confirmed that she received a "charge letter" on 19 March 2005 notifying her that her husband had been formally charged with "attempting to subvert state power". He faces a heavy jail sentence. Fang added that her husband was due to be tried within the next two months.
Authorities keep cyber-dissident Zhang Lin in detention
Reporters Without Borders called today for the immediate release of pro-democracy activist Zhang Lin (photo), who was due to have been freed on 13 February at the end of 15 days of "administrative detention" but is now being held in what the Chinese authorities call "criminal detention" on a charge of threatening state security.
"It is ridiculous to accuse an individual of threatening his country’s security just because he posted articles on the Internet," the press freedom organization said.
Zhang was arrested on 29 January at the station of the city of Bengbu (in Anhui province), on his return from Beijing. The local police had indicated at the time that he would spend 15 days in administrative detention.
But instead of releasing him when the two weeks were up, the police have now told his wife, Fang Cao, that he is in "criminal detention" in Bengbu’s main prison. In China, a person can be held in criminal detention for 37 days before being formally charged.
"My husband is now in the hands of the security services," Fang told Reporters Without Borders. "The authorities have not told me what laws he is supposed to have broken."
The day before his arrest, Zhang went to the Beijing home of the ousted former prime minister, Zhao Ziyang, in order to present his condolences for Zhao’s recent death, but the police prevented him from entering the Zhao residence. In an interview a few days before for the magazine Epoch Times, which was also posted on the Internet, Zhang called Zhao a "sincere man" and "unique Chinese leader."
Zhang often posts his articles on websites linked to the Falun Gong spiritual movement such as Dajiyuan.com and Epochtimes.com, as well as Boxun.com, a website about human rights in China.
He was imprisoned from 1989 to 1991, and again from 1995 to 1998, when he was sentenced to hard labour. He then left for the United States to pursue his political activities, but reentered China illegally a few months later and was rearrested a third time, at which point he was sent to a labour camp until 2001. In all, he has spent eight years in detention.
A total of 63 cyber-dissidents are currently detained in China.