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China 6 November 2008

Cyber-dissident Liu Xianbin freed after nine years in prison

Reporters Without Borders welcomes today’s release of writer and cyber-dissident Liu Xianbin, who was sentenced by a people’s court in the central province of Sichuan in August 1999 to 13 years in prison and three years of loss of civil rights on a charge of “inciting subversion of state authority.”

“We relieved to learn that Liu has finally been freed and we salute his courage,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He displayed tenacity and determination throughout his nine years in prison. His release is not a sign of any liberalisation or recognition of his innocence. His sentence was simply reduced.”

One of the founders of the Sichuan wing of the outlawed China Democracy Party, Liu was arrested in Sichuan on 19 June 1999 after posting various articles online criticising the government and the Communist Party’s policies.

He said after being released that he felt well, mentally and physically, despite spending nine years and four months in detention. He said he became the prison’s teacher and it was largely for this reason that his sentence was commuted three times, resulting in his release today.

In a separate development, the eight-year prison sentence imposed on cyber-dissident Li Zhi in December 2003 for being in touch by email with China Democracy Party leader Xie Wanjun has been reduced to seven years after he paid 200,000 yuan (23,000 euros). He is therefore now due to be freed in 2010.

When issuing its verdict in 2003, the court mentioned that information provided by Yahoo! Hong Kong Ltd and Sina Beijing helped to convict Li by enabling the authorities to confirm that he had an email account with them.

A total of 49 cyber-dissidents are currently detained in China, making it the world’s biggest prison for Internet users. Another cyber-dissident, Chen Daojun, was yesterday charged with “separatism” in connection with three articles he posted online, one of referring to the March 2008 riots in Tibet. He faces a possible five-year jail sentence.

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