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China 2 June 2006

Cyber-dissident arrested, two others forced to leave town

Reporters Without Borders today called for the release on health grounds of cyber-dissident and human rights activist Guo Qizhen, who was arrested at his home on 12 May and whose health, according to his lawyer, is worrying.

The press freedom organisation also condemned the harassment of two other cyber-dissidents, Liu Shui and Xiong Zhongjun, who were forced by the police to leave the city where they live after regularly posting political comments on the Internet.

“We have registered two arrests and two prison sentences for articles posted online since the start of the year,” Reporters Without Borders said. “China is by far the world’s biggest prison for cyber-dissidents, with a total of 50 of them behind bars.”

The organisation added: “China is getting more and more effective in its censorship of websites, blogs and online forums and poses a major threat to the development of the Internet worldwide. It has created an alternative online model, based on filtering and repression, and now has emulators among the world’s other authoritarian regimes.”

Aged 45, Guo has published many articles on websites based abroad in which he has openly criticised the government. His arrest seems to be linked to his participation in a rotating hunger strike launched by lawyer Gao Zhisheng in protest against human rights violations in China. Pro-democracy activists have been taking turns to fast for 24 hours since 4 February. It was Guo’s turn when he was arrested.

According to his lawyer, Li Jianqiang, the authorities used Guo’s Internet articles as grounds for arresting him as it is not illegal to stage a hunger strike. Guo is currently being held in Cangzhou detention centre No. 2 in the central province of Hebei. Neither his family nor his lawyer have been allowed to see him.

Reached by Reporters Without Borders, Li said Guo had a broken leg and was psychologically very debilitated. He cannot walk and the detention centre where he is held lacks the resources to give him adequate treatment.

Liu was one of the leaders of the student movement in the northern region of Gansu in 1989, after which he was sent to a reeducation camp for 15 months. He then went to live in Shenzen (near Hong Kong), where he worked for several regional newspapers. After being fired for writing controversial articles, he began posting articles on the Internet. He was arrested again in May 2005 and then released, whereupon he resumed his online activities. He was arrested yet again on 29 May by the Shenzen police. When freed the following day, he was told to leave the city within 48 hours.

Xiong, 26, is a member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. He has posted literary criticism, poems and political essays on websites. He was evicted once already from his home as a result of pressure from the Shenzen police. He had just moved into a new apartment on 15 May when the authorities again forced the owner to evict him. Tired of the constant harassment, he has decided to leave Shenzen, the city he has lived in for the past six years.

Meanwhile, the family of blogger Hao Wu has still had virtually no news about him. Hao was kidnapped more than three months ago by the Beijing security services.

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