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China 25 October 2006

Cyber-dissident gets three-year sentence on day French president arrives

The three-year prison sentence imposed on cyber-dissident Li Jianping today as French President Jacques Chirac arrived on a three-day state visit to China was a “slap in the face” for French diplomacy, Reporters Without Borders said, reiterating its call to Chirac to intercede on behalf of the 83 journalists and cyber-dissidents imprisoned in China.

Li received the sentence from a court in Zibo in the eastern province of Shandong, which found him guilty of “inciting subversion of the state” by posting articles about human rights and politics on websites based abroad.

“We had hoped Chirac’s coming would be greeted by the release of prisoners of conscience,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Instead we find that the first day of his visit has been marked by a heavy prison sentence. This is a slap in the face for French diplomacy, which claims to be engaged in a ‘constructive’ dialogue on human rights, despite the lack of concrete results.”

Li was officially charged on 9 March, nine months after he was arrested. The trial took place on 12 April although the verdict and sentence were not announced until today.

A businessman who used to run a medical equipment supply business, Li is also a freelance journalist who regularly wrote for foreign websites such as Boxun News, ChinaEWeekly, China Democracy and Epoch Times, which Chinese Internet users cannot access. He criticised the government and the lack of freedom of expression in the Chinese media.

Now aged 40, he took part in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing in 1989 as a founder of the Independent Federation of Shanghai Universities.

He is the eighth journalist or cyber-dissident to receive a prison sentence this year.

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