Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of cyber-dissident Shi Xiaoyu because of his online reporting on workers’ protests in the southwestern industrial city of Chongqing. Shi has been held by the Chongqing authorities since 20 October.
“Shi’s detention is unacceptable as all he did on the Internet was to defend workers’ rights enshrined in the Chinese constitution,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is shocking to learn of the arrest of yet another cyber-dissident while a European Union delegation is in China to discuss human rights.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “The Chinese authorities must immediately release Shi and the approximately 60 other cyber-dissidents currently in prison.”
Shi was arrested when members of the Chongqing public security department travelled all the way to his home in Shaoxing, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and escorted him back to Chongqinq. They took his laptop and personal notes. It is still not known where exactly he is being held in Chongqinq.
In late September, Shi tried to help Chongqing steelworkers who have been protesting against corrupt practices by some of their bosses. The police used violence to disperse meetings in mid-October. Reports on the Internet say two workers were killed and many were injured and that many arrests were made in these police crackdowns. The Chongqing propaganda department has imposed a news blackout.
Now aged 50, Shi was previously imprisoned in 1976 for criticising certain Maoist policies and received a death sentence that was never executed. He resumed his studies after being released in 1979 and began working for small companies in Shaoxing in 2001. At the same time, he posted information about workers’ rights online.
The police warned him of the risks he was running at the start of October. The organisation Chinese Rights Defenders said he then wrote on the Internet that he intended to put an end to his activism.