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China 18 January 2003

Elderly magazine publisher jailed for a year

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) called today on China’s new president, Hu Jintao, to order his public security minister to release at once a 70-year-old magazine editor imprisoned without trial a year ago for subversion.

The organisation Human Rights in China (HRIC) disclosed that Wang Daqi, editor of the magazine Ecology, had only been sentenced last 19 December to a year in prison by the intermediate court in the eastern city of Hefei for publishing articles about forbidden subjects and for "incitement to overthrow the government."

Since he has already been in prison for a year, he is due for release in a few weeks time. Reporters Without Borders called for his immediate release and for his conviction to be annulled. HRIC said he was being held in "appalling" conditions and was sharing a cell with more than 20 other prisoners.

One of the offending articles, earlier published in Hong Kong, was about the 35th anniversary of the China’s Cultural Revolution. The court also accused him of printing excerpts from a 1990s novel called "Red Blood, White Snow" which was banned because it criticised the Chinese army.

Wang was arrested on 24 January last year as he was leaving his home. His fate was a mystery for several days, after which police came to the house and took away magazines, address books and commercial bills. His family was told on 7 February that he had been arrested and charged with "undermining national security."

Wang is a retired professor at the Hefei Industrial University and an expert on the ecology of Lake Chao, in Anhui province. In 1987, he took over Ecology and advocated the gradual democratisation of China as a way to preserve the environment. In 1997, after he had persistently criticised the Chinese state security apparatus, the police asked him to stop publishing the magazine, but he refused.

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