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China 19 March 2007

Cyber-dissident Zhang Jianhong ("Li Hong") gets six years in prison

Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay on learning that cyber-dissident Zhang Jianhong, who is also known by the pen-name of Li Hong, was sentenced today to six years in prison by a court in Ningbo, in the eastern province of Zhejiang. He has appealed against the sentence.

A member of the Chinese branch of the independent writers association PEN, Zhang was arrested in September 2006 and was charged the following month with “incitement to subvert the state’s authority” for calling for political reform in articles posted on the Internet. Two other cyber-dissidents who were arrested six months ago, Chen Shuqing and Yang Maodong, are still awaiting trial.

“This verdict is sadly yet another example of the judicial system being used by the political authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is outrageous that cyber-dissidents get severe prison sentences just for the views they express. Yet again, they are being made to pay a heavy price for their commitment. After Zhang’s conviction, we fear that the same fate is in store for Chen and Yang.”

According to the New China news agency, Zhang was convicted of writing “articles defaming the Chinese government and calling for agitation to overthrow the government.” The court said it was showing clemency to the defendant, who posted around 100 articles on the Internet from May to September 2006, because he expressed remorse during the trial.

Aged 48, Zhang founded the literary website in August 2005 and was its editor until the authorities shut it down in March 2006. He also wrote regularly for sites such as Boxun and The Epoch Times. He already spent a year and a half in a reeducation-through-work camp for “counter-revolutionary propaganda” after getting involved in the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

Chen’s case has been sent back to the police for further investigation. A member of the banned China Democracy Party (CDP), he was charged on 17 October 2006 with “incitement to subvert the state’s authority.” He was already detained for four months in 1999 for helping to create the CDP.

Better known as Guo Feixiong, Yang was arrested on 14 September 2006. A lawyer, writer and human rights activist, he has been accused of “illegal business activity.” He was previously arrested for “disturbing the peace” after a rally on 13 September 2005 in the village of Taishi (in Guangdong province).

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