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China 12 June 2006

Authorities allow opinion poll website back online

An opinion poll website that was closed down last month after posting a questionnaire about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre has been allowed back online. The website, Polls, (Zhongguo Guoqing Zixun), was given permission to resume operating on 4 June after several weeks of negotiations with the ministry of industry and information.

After going back online, the site expressed its thanks for the support it received from many news media in China and abroad, as well as human rights organisations. The webmaster said he would to continue to conduct opinion polls on the website. Today, for example he asked visitors to the site to assign a mark evaluating the work of President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao since the start of the year.


16.05.2006

China marks 40 years since Cultural Revolution with censorship and crackdown

The organisation regretted that “China was marking the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution by censoring the Internet and cracking down on democrats”, pointing to a 12-year jail term against a cyberdissident and closure of a pollster website. Yang Tianshui was sentenced on 16 May 2006 to 12 years in prison for posting anti-government articles online. Elsewhere a website, Polls (Zhongguo guoqing zixun), carrying out and posting political surveys was closed the previous week after asking visitors to the site to reply to a question about the June 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Reporters Without Borders said it believed the prison sentence imposed on Yang Tianshui was totally unjustified. "We consider that the arrest and trial of the cyberdissident did not respect Chinese law. Yang was picked up without an arrest warrant by Security Bureau agents in plainclothes and his trial was rushed through in three hours,” the organisation said.

Yang Tianshui has posted numerous articles, including on the Chinese version of the daily Epoch Times, hosted abroad. He had for example reported on torture meted out to human rights activists and protection the authorities give to some criminals. Also known under the name Yang Tongyan, the cyberdissident had already served a ten-year prison sentence between 1990 and 2000 for “counter-revolutionary" crimes.

He was arrested again on 24 December 2004 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in the south-east of the country. He was held in custody for several weeks without being allowed to contact his family.

The press freedom organisation also condemned the closure of Polls, saying that the authorities had broken their own laws in closing the site, which did no more than report on public opinion on political issues.

Polls is a website that is properly registered and therefore completely legal. The poll which provoked its closure was based on the recent announcement of a compensation award paid to the family of a student killed during the Tiananmen massacres.

Visitors to the site were asked to respond to the question: “The family of a Tiananmen victim has been compensated for the first time. What do you think about it?” Two possible answers were suggested. “It’s an ordinary compensation, nothing very interesting about it” or "A first step towards the rehabilitation of Chinese history. An unprecedented case!”.

Several thousand people had responded in a few days. More than 70 percent of them believed it was an “unprecedented case”.

The website was closed for a first time on 8 May. The webmasters contacted their server who told them, “The order came from high up. Polls is a political website deemed to be dangerous. We can no longer allow access to it”. After two days of negotiations, they finally got permission to put the site back online, but on the condition that they revised its content.

The webmasters nevertheless decided to continue its survey on the compensation of families of Tiananmen vicims and at 10am on 11 May, less than 24 hours after it had gone back up again, Polls was closed again. This time the authorities also shut down two blogs (http://s007s.blog.163.com and http://www.z007z.blog.163.com) which allowed the site to accept votes from Internet-users.

This is the sixth time since it was founded in November 2005, that Polls has been closed.

The case echoes the closure, in February 2000, of the website www.64tianwang.com which posted missing persons appeals about people who had not been seen since the Tiananmen Square massacre. Its webmaster, Huang Qi, was arrested on 3 June 2000 and sentenced to five years in prison.

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