Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the release from prison on 5 August of Chen Shaowen, who had written supposedly subversive articles on the Internet about social inequalities, unemployment and the pitfalls of the Chinese legal system.
He had been in jail since 6 August 2002 after being arrested in Lianyuan (Hunan province) and was given a five-year sentence in February 2003, later reduced to three on appeal. The Writers in Prison Committee of the Independent Chinese PEN Center said he was in poor health and had been beaten up by guards in May.
At least 63 cyber-dissidents and Internet users are in prison in China.
China arrests 31st cyber-dissident
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of another cyber-dissident in China on charges of subversion and called for his immediate release.
"China has made the simple act of expressing an opinion into an act of subversion," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Chinese public security minister Jia Chunwang protesting against the arrest of the dissident, Chen Shaowen.
"This is not just a violation of the Constitution but also of the country’s international commitments concerning human rights. We remind your government that freedom of expression and opinion is one of these rights. The systematic repression of all critical or discordant voices is very ominous for the future on the eve of a Communist Party congress supposed to launch new leaders," Ménard said.
Chen has reportedly been held by police in Lianyuan, in the central province of Hunan, since August and was not formally arrested until this month, a common practice in China. He was jailed for having published on the Internet "a lot of reactionary articles and essays," according to an official quoted by the Associated Press news agency.
Chen has contributed regularly to several Chinese-language websites based abroad, writing articles about social inequalities, unemployment and the pitfalls of the legal system. He has also written several essays supporting democracy.
Thirty other cyber-dissidents are in prison in China for having expressed opinions on the Internet that are deemed "subversive" by the authorities.