Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its call to the Chinese authorities to quickly release journalist Shi Tao after his mother received the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen award on his behalf at a ceremony yesterday in Cape Town (South Africa). The innocent victim of the continuing crackdown on those who defend the memory of the Tiananmen Square victims, Shi was convicted thanks to Yahoo!’s cooperation with the Chinese police.
"The Chinese authorities must quickly review the decision to impose a 10-year prison sentence on this journalist," Reporters Without Borders said. "Held in a forced-labour camp, Shi Tao is innocent. We appeal to the international community to redouble its efforts to obtain the release of Shi and the 80 other journalists and cyber-dissidents held in China."
Shi’s mother, Gao Qinsheng, paid homage to her son at yesterday’s ceremony in the South African city of Cape Town, reading a poem he wrote a few weeks before his arrest to the memory of the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989. With tears in her eyes, she said: "He did what every courageous journalist must do." Her speech was warmly applauded by those present including President Thabo Mbeki.
My whole life
Will never get past "June"
June, when my heart died
When my poetry died
When my lover
Died in an abandoned pool of blood
June, the scorching sun burns open my skin
Revealing the true nature of my wound
June, the little fish swims out of the blood-red sea
Toward another place to hibernate
June, the earth shifts, the river falls silent
Piled up letters unable to be delivered to the dead
World Editors Forum president George Brock revealed during the ceremony that the government-backed Chinese Press Association had asked that the prize not be awarded to Shi on the grounds that he had been convicted according to the law.
Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 30 April 2005 for "illegally divulging state secrets abroad" because he gave a foreign-based website the text of a message about coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre which the authorities had sent to his newspaper, Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News). The court’s verdict indicated that Yahoo!’s Hong Kong subsidiary gave the Chinese police information that helped to convict him.