Reporters Without Borders today joined the New York-based organisation Human Rights in China in protesting against the Chinese judicial system’s violations of its own legal procedures in the case of online journalist Li Jianping.
“After investigating for 14 months, it is clear that the judicial authorities do not have enough evidence to convict Li,” the press freedom organisation said. “Expressing his views on the Internet is not a crime, and we therefore request his immediate release.”
Li’s trial took place on 12 April in Zibo, in the eastern province of Shandong. According to article 168 of the code of criminal procedure, the court had a month and a half to issue its verdict. In very complex cases, a court may be allowed an additional a month.
Li was formally charged on 9 March with “incitement to subvert state sovereignty.” This was more than nine months after his arrest, on 28 May 2005. This was already a violation of the code of criminal procedure, which stipulates in article 138 that the judicial authorities have a maximum of three and a half months to bring charges.
According to Human Rights in China, the Zibo court requested additional evidence without his family being notified. Meanwhile, nothing is know about the conditions in which he is being held as neither his family nor lawyer have been allowed to visit him.
Judges urged to acquit cyber-dissident Li Jianping on subversion charge
Reporters Without Borders today called for the acquittal of cyber-dissident Li Jianping, whose trial on a charge of “inciting the subversion of state sovereignty” in articles and comments for foreign websites will begin tomorrow in the eastern province of Shandong. He was charged on 9 March but has been held since 28 May 2005.
“Li’s conviction would violate international standards of free expression,” the press freedom organisation said. “His only crime was to express his views on such issues as democracy. We urge the judges to find him innocent and set him free, especially as he has already spent almost a year in prison for no good reason.”
Foreign-based websites barred to Chinese Internet users such as Boxun News, ChinaEWeekly, China Democracy and Epoch Times were regularly used by Li to post articles criticising some of the practices of the leaders of the ruling Communist Party of China and deploring the lack of free expression in the Chinese media.
He was arrested for defamation when officials from the Internet control committee came and searched his home in Zibo, in Shandong province, and examined the contents of his computer’s hard drive.
According to the US-based organisation Human Rights in China and his lawyer, Zhang Xinshui, he faces a possible 15-year prison sentence when he appears tomorrow before an intermediate court.
Aged 40, Li is a businessman as well as an independent journalist, and used to run a medical equipment supply business. He took part in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing in 1989 as a founder of the Independent Federation of Shanghai Universities.
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