Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today called for the release of Li Dawei, who has just been sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for having downloaded and printed out pro-democracy texts from the Internet.
"As far as we know, this is the most severe sentence ever imposed by the Chinese justice system on a web user or cyber-dissident", said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard, who addressed a letter on 6 August to Justice Minister Fusen Zhang asking him to do everything possible to ensure Li Dawei is released.
"Arrests, blocked sites, self-censorship, torture, police surveillance and
closure of cyber-cafés, the Chinese State now has a repressive arsenal that testifies to its hostility toward freedom of expression on the Internet", Ménard said.
According to the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Li Dawei was sentenced on 24 June by a court in China’s northwestern province of Gansu after having been found guilty of trying to "subvert the state power". A former policeman, he was accused of having downloaded more than 500 texts form Chinese democracy sites based abroad, especially www.89-64.com, and having edited them in a number of unpublished books. He was also said to have been in contact with "reactionary" organisations based abroad.
Aged 40, Li Dawei was arrested in April 2002 and his trial began in May. His lawyer, Dou Peixin, said the province’s highest court had accepted the appeal filed against the conviction.
At least 20 cyber-dissidents are currently detained in China, including Huang Qi, a web site’ creator, who was arrested on 3 June 2000 and is still held without having been tried. Yang Zili and three animators of the www.lib.126.com site have been held without trial since March 2001.