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China 2 October 2006

Cyber-dissident Yang Maodong formally arrested and charged

Reporters Without Borders today called for the release of cyber-dissident Yang Maodong (who is better known by the pseudonym of Guo Feixiong) after his wife told Reuters the authorities formalized his arrest on 28 September and charged him with “illegal business activities.”

Yang was arrested at his home in the city Guangzhou (in the southern province of Guangdong) on 14 September 2006. No date has yet been set for his trial. According to his lawyers, he faces up to five years in prison or even more if his case is deemed to be “serious.”

Yang was imprisoned from October to December last year for “disturbing the peace” after encouraging the population of the village of Taishi (in Guangdong province) to demand the resignation of the village chief for alleged corruption.

He was briefly arrested again early this year after going on hunger strike in protest against the beating he had received from thugs in Guangzhou.


Lawyer and rights activist Guo Feixiong freed after being held three months

Yang Maodong, a 39-year-old lawyer, writer and human rights activist better known as Guo Feixiong, was released today after being held for more that three months for “disturbing the peace” at a meeting on 13 September in the village of Taishi, in the southern province of Guangdong. Officials said he would not be charged.

At the time of his arrest, Guo was accused of “personally leading demonstrations by villagers aimed at overthrowing the local leaders.” He staged a month-long hunger strike while in detention.


Guardian reporter arrested with Chinese activist outside embattled southern village

Benjamin Joffe-Walt, a reporter for the British daily The Guardian, was arrested with Chinese activist Lu Banglie on 10 October on the outskirts of Taishi, the village that has become a symbol of the struggle for peasants’ rights in the southern province of Guangdong. They had been hoping to cover a controversy about the illegal sale of villagers’ land.

Their car was reportedly stopped by police, soldiers and dozens of men in plain clothes, who gave Lu a severe beating. Joffe-Walt and the two other men with him (his driver and his interpreter) were taken away and were placed in custody in the town of Yuwotou. They were later released. Lu is still recovering from his injuries.


Two foreign reporters beaten for trying to probe village corruption cover-up

Reporters Without Borders today deplored a physical attack on two foreign journalists by militiamen and thugs in a village in southern China and the news blackout which local leaders have imposed on corruption and mafia-style activities there.

The attack on Malaysian journalist Leu Siew Ying of the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and French journalist Abel Segretin of Radio France Internationale (RFI) took place on 7 October in the village of Taishi in Panyu district, in the southern province of Guangdong.

They went to Taishi to investigate reports of corruption involving village leaders but were attacked outside the village by some 20 individuals who appeared to be thugs hired by the local authorities. Repeatedly punched and beaten on the back of their heads, they refused to comply with demands to surrender their identity papers until the police came.

“These mercenaries were furious when they discovered we were journalists,” Segretin told Reporters Without Borders. “Even the police feared these apparent gangsters and quickly drove us away, locking the doors of the car.” They were taken to a police station and were released soon afterwards. Both were very shaken by the experience.

The day before the incident, the Guangdong authorities had officially arrested Yang Maodong, a lawyer better known as Guo Feixiong, who had been in custody for three weeks for “disturbing the peace” at a 13 September demonstration in Taishi at which he called for the resignation of village leader Chen Jinshen for alleged embezzlement.

Among other things, Guo accused Chen of selling village land to construction companies without the permission of residents. Hundreds of armed police raided Taishi the day after the demonstration and arrested dozens of villagers.

Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of Guo, who had posted many messages on websites such as the Chinese human rights site Peacehall and the online forum Yannan defending the rights of villagers who have been stripped of their land.

Among the Taishi affair’s many repercussions on press freedom has been the closure of the Yannan online forum on 30 September.

Taishi is now under a virtual state of siege, with residents being closely watched and banned from talking to journalists. Chinese journalists who tried to investigate found that their newspapers were told to reprint an article from a local newspaper that supposedly provides all “necessary information” and dismisses the allegations against Chen.

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