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China 18 October 2005

Appeal court upholds five-year jail term for cyber-dissident Zhang Lin

In an appeal hearing on 14 October, the Anhui province high court upheld the five-year prison sentence which a lower court passed on Zhang Lin, a pro-democracy intellectual and cyber-dissident who has been held for nearly 10 months. The Agence France-Presse news agency quoted his wife, Fang Cao, as saying the ruling was “absurd” and that “the two courts did not rule according to the law but out of revenge.”

Zhang was convicted on 29 July of making statements “contrary to the bases of the constitution” and “endangering national security” in an interview for a foreign radio station and in articles and essays (including the words of a punk song) that he posted on the Internet.


Cyberdissident Zhang Lin ends hunger strike

Reporters Without Borders has learned that Zhang Lin started eating again, on 28 September 2005, almost one month after beginning a hunger strike. The cyberdissident, sentenced to five years in prison in August for writing articles "contrary to the Constitution", has been left extremely weak from his ordeal.

Zhang Lin suffers from minor heart problems as a result of his prolonged fast. The prison authorities have refused to transfer him to hospital, despite the fact that he is in a poor state of health. He is however receiving medical care in prison.

He is allowed to receive visits from his lawyer, but not from his wife, Fang Cao. After ending his hunger strike, he told his lawyer that he would "never give up morally" and he thanked all those who supported him in China and abroad, whom he asked to continue to work for "freedom of expression".


No word of cyber-dissident who has been on hunger strike for three weeks

Voicing concern about the lack of any word since 8 September from imprisoned cyber-dissident Zhang Lin, who has been on hunger strike for the past three weeks, Reporters Without Borders today urged Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to intercede to get his conviction reviewed. Zhang is serving a five-year sentence for endangering national security.

“We call on the Chinese authorities to move at once to release this famous cyber-dissident for humanitarian reasons,” the press freedom organisation said.

Zhang, who has been detained since 29 January, began the hunger strike on 1 September to protest against the mistreatment and long hours of forced labour to which he was being subjected in Bengbu prison, in Anhui province.

He told his lawyer, Mo Shaoping, he intended to continue the hunger strike “for 100 days.” He was taken to hospital after one week, but was returned to prison when he refused the prescribed treatment.

No one has had any contact with him since 8 September, when his lawyer was able to speak to him briefly. His wife, Fang Cao, has been trying to visit him in order to persuade him to call off the hunger strike. But the prison authorities told her on 21 September there was no possibility of communicating with him because “all detainees must be cut off from the exterior.”

The mother of two children and short of money since his arrest, Fang continues to write him a letter every two days, but has not received any answer.

Zhang was convicted by a Bengbu court on 29 July for giving an interview to a foreign radio station and for posting articles and essays (including the words of a punk song) on the Internet. The court found that their content was “contrary to the bases of the constitution” and “endangered national security.”

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