Reporters Without Borders has called on European representatives due to meet Chinese ministers in Beijing on 11 and 12 May 2005 to raise the plight of three recently imprisoned Chinese journalists and cyberdissidents.
The organisation wrote to Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and Jean-Claude Junker, prime minister of Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU presidency, to intervene at the next EU-China troika on behalf of Zhang Lin, Shi Tao and Zheng Yichun, charged with posting "illegal" news online.
"It seems to us that the EU which supports the opening up of China to foreign countries cannot remain unmoved by the case of these three journalists and cyberdissidents, imprisoned only for wanting to inform us," it said.
We fully realise that important economic matters will be on the agenda for this meeting, but we hope that the EU will also take advantage of this direct dialogue with the Chinese authorities to remind them of its determination to defend free expression and specifically mention the cases of Zhang Lin, Shi Tao and Zheng Yichun.
Journalist Shi Tao, held since 24 November 2004, was sentenced on 30 April 2005 to ten years in prison "for illegally revealing state secrets abroad". He was found guilty of posting on foreign-based websites an internal message sent by the authorities to his newspaper (Dang Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News) warning its journalists against the risks of social destabilisation on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Zheng Yichun, arrested on 20 December 2004, is charged with "subversion" for posting articles calling for reform of the Chinese political system on foreign-based websites.
Zhang Lin, arrested on 29 January 2005, was formally charged with "subversion" in February for posting articles dealing with human rights abuses in China on sites banned by the authorities.
"Sixty-two cyberdissidents and 30 journalists are still imprisoned in the country", Reporters Without Borders pointed out