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China 6 February 2007

Support for call by wife for review of imprisoned cyber-dissident Yang Zili’s trial

Reporters Without Borders today voiced support for a request for a review of cyber-dissident Yang Zili’s trial, which his wife, Lu Kun, has made on the grounds of new evidence that shows that he was convicted on trumped-up charges. The Beijing intermediate court turned down her request, but she filed a new request to the supreme court and is still awaiting its decision. Yang has been in prison since 2001.

“Statements obtained by Lu shows that the security services fabricated the evidence on which Yang was convicted,” the press freedom organisation said. “The manipulation they expose is unacceptable. We expect China’s supreme court to play its role and redress the mistakes made by the other courts.”

The first statement obtained by Lu is that of former State Security Bureau agent Li Yuzhou, who began spying on Yang and his group of friends at the Beijing teacher training college in May 2000 because they were suspected of “wanting to promote social reforms in China.” Li was told to infiltrate the group and report on their real intentions.

The former agent’s statement to Lu is critical of his fellow agents and superiors, accusing them of altering the four reports he made in order to justify arresting Yang and three of his colleagues, Xu Wei, Jin Haike and Zhang Honghai.

Li explained how he manipulated the young pro-democracy activists on the orders of his superiors. “Once I had joined the group, I was supposed to get its members to meet and talk, especially about their most radical positions, while agents in an adjoining room recorded the conversations,” Li said.

The former agent explained that he became friends with the members of the group, which called itself the “New Youth Society.” In his view: “There was nothing illegal about the group and it posed no danger for the country. These young people were just meeting to talk and express their views.”

The statements of two other members of the group, He Zhongzhou and Zhang Yanhua, corroborate what Li said. “We were just friends who met to talk, often about social problems, sure, but we never questioned the communist ideology,” said He, who also accused the judges of bias during the 2003 trial: “No account was taken of my testimony. As evidence, they preferred to use the false statements made by people in cahoots with the police.”

A computer specialist and founder of the website, Yang was arrested on 20 April 2001 after writing articles for his website that advocated political freedoms, criticised the crackdown on the Falun Gong spiritual movement and deplored the economic hardship of China’s peasants. He also posted articles by other members of his group, which used to meet once a week to discuss political reform. He was sentenced by the Beijing intermediate court on 28 May 2003 to eight years in prison for “subverting state authority.” The sentence was confirmed on appeal on 10 November 2003. The three other members of the group who were arrested with him also received long prison sentences. Xu (a journalist) and Jin (a geologist) got ten years, while Zhang (a writer) got eight years.

Reporters Without Borders established a system of sponsorship 16 years ago in which international media are encouraged to adopt imprisoned journalists. More than 200 news organisations throughout the world are currently supporting journalists by regularly calling on the authorities to release them and by publicising their cases. Yang has been adopted by Member of the European Parliament Marielle de Sarnez, Maud Gatel, UDF, Métro (France), RTL (France), Fun Radio (Belgium), Le Devoir (Canada), “Le Grand Journal” (TQS TV Canada), The Daily Courier, The Telegram and Radio Canada International.

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