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China 21 November 2008

Political essayist gets three years in prison for three articles posted online

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of essayist Chen Daojun, who was sentenced today by a people’s court in Chengdu, in the western province of Sichuan, to three years in prison and three years’ loss of political rights for “inciting subversion of state authority” in three articles posted online.

“Chen Daojun is guilty only of expressing his views on Chinese politics,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He is the second cyber-dissident to be convicted this year by a Chengdu court, following Huang Qi, who was arrested on 10 June because of his online articles criticising the management of humanitarian aid after the 12 May earthquake in Sichuan. By jailing Internet users in this fashion, the authorities have once again shown they are unable to handle criticism.”

An environmental activist, Chen, 40, was arrested on 9 May on a charge of “trying to subvert state authority” after taking part in a protest against an environmental threat. In an article posted four days before on YiBao (ChinaEweekly), an overseas Chinese website, he had called for a halt to the construction of a petrochemical plant 40 km outside the city.

On 5 November, the Chengdu court formally charged him with “separatism” in connection with the three articles for which he was finally convicted on the subversion charge.

The three offending articles were:

-   “Misgovernment drives people to Revolt - My Respect to the Tibetans struggling heroically” ( It referred to the street rioting in Lhasa in March.

-   “What to Do after the Seventeenth Congress?” ( It commented on the Communist Party congress held in November 2007.

-   “The Backgrounds of the Anti-West Chinese” ( It looked at the Chinese boycotts of certain French and US products in April 2008.

“This is one of the most important cases in recent years,” Zhang Yu of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre told Reporters Without Borders. “No one has been given such a severe sentence for just a handful of articles since 2006, when Li Changqing got three years for writing about the 2004 dengue epidemic in Fuzhou [the capital of the southeastern province of Fujian].”

Zhang added that only one lawyer in the Chengdu region, Xiang Yang, was notified that the trial was going to take place. He was told on 17 November. The next day, the police summoned him and asked him to explain why he was defending Chen, whose own lawyer, Zhu Jiuhu, had not been told.

A Tibetan activist, Walza Norzin Wangmo, was also convicted today. She got a five-year prison sentence for disseminating information about the current situation in Tibet by telephone and Internet.

Read the verdict (in Chinese)

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