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Chine 19 December 2002

Liao Yiwu falls victim to latest crackdown on cyber-dissidents

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today voiced its outrage at the arrest of writer and poet Liao Yiwu, the latest cyber-dissident to fall victim to the current crackdown by the Chinese authorities. Liao was arrested yesterday morning by officers of the public security ministry at his home in Chengdu, in the southwest province of Sichuan. Officials have not yet said why he was arrested.

Calling for his immediate release, Reporters Without Borders said the arrest was clearly designed to silence a writer who has already been banned from publishing his work. The Internet had become his last resort for communicating his ideas. His arrest brings the number of detained cyber-dissidents to at least 35.

Aged 42, Liao began posting his writing on the Internet after the publication ban was imposed. He was previously sentenced to four years imprisonment in 1990 for circulating a clandestine video entitled "The Massacre" on the 1989 democracy movement. Following pressure from the US authorities, he was released for "good conduct" in 1994, one month before completing his sentence.

Thereafter, he resumed his activism and went back to writing about China’s social reality, in particular about the sensitive issues of poverty and social inequality, thereby becoming a regular target for harassment by the authorities. In November, he was one of around 200 democracy activists who signed an open letter address to the Communist Party’s XVI Congress calling on its leaders to retract their condemnation of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement. At least four other signatories of this letter have been arrested in recent weeks.

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