Reporters Without Borders today condemned the 20-year prison sentence handed down by the Beijing No. 2 intermediate people’s court yesterday on researcher and media commentator Lu Jianhua for leaking state secrets in a case linked to that of Hong-Kong based reporter Ching Cheong, who was sentenced in August to five years for “spying.”
“We call on researchers to rally to Lu’s defence. Applying the state secrets law with the utmost severity in Lu’s case constitutes a very grave violation of press and scientific freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It dramatically highlights the violence with which the Communist Party cracks down on researchers and journalists who try to work and publish independently.”
A prominent sociologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Lu was well known for the essays he wrote and his appearances on TV talk shows. Aged 46, he was one of the editors of a book on the social situation in China that is published every year.
The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said Lu was tried in a 90-minute hearing behind closed doors on 16 August, although the verdict and sentence were not handed down until yesterday. His family was not able to choose his defence lawyer and his wife was prevented from attending the trial.
Lu was arrested in April 2005, the same month that Ching, the China correspondent of the Singapore-based Straits Times daily, was arrested during a visit to the Chinese mainland. Lu and Ching regularly exchanged information on the political and social situation in China for their scientific and journalistic work. Ching also helped Lu get around 60 articles published in the Straits Times.
Some Chinese officials claimed that three of these articles, published in 2004, contained state secrets.
In an open letter to President Hu Jintao in June, Ching’s wife, Mary Lau, wrote: “Lu Jianhua and Ching Cheong regularly shared information about statements by leaders. They did it to prepare their scientific research or their journalistic interviews. I hope you will understand that whatever they did, they were standing firmly on the side of Chinese people.”