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China 13 March 2009

Cyber-dissident Yang Zili freed on completing eight-year sentence, call for probe into how he was treated while held

(JPEG) Reporters Without Borders hails the release of cyber-dissident Yang Zili, the founder of the “Garden of Ideas” website (, from Beijing No. 2 prison yesterday on completing an eight-year sentence on a charge of subverting the state.

“It was symbolic that Yang was freed on Online Free Expression Day and we are very pleased for him,” Reporters Without Borders said. “However China continues to be an enemy of the Internet and one of the world’s biggest prisons for government critics, whether journalists or ordinary Internet users. We call for an investigation into the treatment he received while in detention.”

Yang was a member of a clandestine discussion group called the New Youth Society, which met once a week to discuss political reform. Another member of the group, Zhang Honghai, was also freed yesterday on completing an eight-year sentence. Two other members of the group who were given 10-year sentences, Jin Haike and Xu Wei, are still being held.

All four were arrested in March 2001 and were convicted on the same charge in May 2003. Jin is being held in Beijing No. 2 prison. Xu was transferred to a prison in Yanqing after developing a mental illness while in detention.

After graduating from the prestigious University of Beijing in mechanical engineering, Yang worked as a computer engineer while writing theoretical articles posted on his website advocating political liberalism, criticising repression of the Falungong spiritual movement and deploring the problems faced by the peasantry.

Then aged 30, Yang was arrested as he was leaving his Beijing home on 13 March 2001. His wife was arrested the same day and was released 48 hours later after being forced to agree in writing not to talk about his arrest.

China is the world’s biggest prison for cyber-dissidents. A total of 69 people are currently detained because of their online activity (Download the "Internet Enemies" report in PDF).

Read what Zhang had to say about the treatment he received in prison.

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