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China 5 March 2003

Concern grows about fate of two jailed cyber-dissidents

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) said today it was worried about the health of two jailed cyber-dissidents and called on the new Chinese government to be named in coming days to rapidly free them and a "huge number of other political prisoners," including 34 other cyber-dissidents and especially those who were ill or weakened.

It expressed concern about Wang Jinbo, who began a hunger strike on 28 February, and Qi Yanchen, whose condition has deteriorated because prison officials have refused to give him medicine he needs. It called for all charges against them to be dropped. Both were jailed for alleged "subversion".

Wang stopped eating the week the National People’s Assembly began a session in Beijing which will appoint a new government. "He did so to protest against his imprisonment," former political prisoner Ren Wanding told foreign journalists based in Beijing. He is being held in prison No.1 in the eastern province of Shandong and has not said how long he will stay on hunger strike.

Wang, who campaigned on the Internet for democracy, was arrested on 9 May 2001 and sentenced to four years in prison on 13 December that year for e-mailing articles to Chinese dissident groups abroad. He had called for the release of jailed dissidents and the political rehabilitation of victims of the June 1989 massacre in Beijing’s Tienanmen Square. 

Qi Yanchen is being held in prison No.4 in Shijiazhuang (in Hebei province, south of Beijing) in poor health and only gets medicine for his serious medical problems, which include chronic colitis, through his wife Mi Hongwu, who is only allowed to visit him every two months.  She said he was "very weak" when she last saw him in mid-January.

Qi, who has been held since 1999, was sentenced in September 2000 to four years in prison for "putting out anti-government material," notably by posting on the Internet long extracts from his book "The Collapse of China," which the prosecutor at his trial said was "subversive." He has written several pro-democracy articles and posted them online.

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