When his 10-year prison sentence was pronounced on 28 May, journalist Xu Wei began a hunger strike to protest against the verdicts handed down by a Beijing court against himself and his three friends, Jin Haike, Yang Zili and Zhang Honghai, who like him have been detained since March 2001 on a charge of "subverting the state’s authority." The others have also been given long prison terms.
Xu’s health has deteriorated badly as a result of the ill-treatment he has regularly received during his two years in detention. On 31 May, his lawyer Mo Shaoping was urgently summoned to the Beijing detention centre where the four dissidents are held to try to convince Xu to end his hunger strike. Xu agreed to resume taking water but he is still refusing all food.
Call for US and France to condemn jailing of 42 Chinese cyber-dissidents when Chinese President Hu Jintao visits G8 Summit
Reporters Without Borders today urged US President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac to demand an end to media repression in China and the release and amnesty of more than 40 cyber-dissidents when they meet Chinese President Hu Jintao at the G8 nations 1-3 June summit in Évian (France).
"Just a week away from the 14th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre, a new crackdown on cyber-dissidents and journalists speaking out online shows that freedom of expression in China is still only words," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Bush and Chirac. "Even worse, those who publish their writings online are treated like criminals and subjected to ill-treatment, torture and heavy prison sentences."
"If the Chinese government thinks that because the foreign media are focused on the SARS epidemic, it therefore has a free hand to repress and jail more than 40 cyber-dissidents, it has forgotten that organisations defending freedom of expression are watching the situation very closely."
Four cyber-dissidents, including a journalist, were each sentenced to between eight and 10 years in prison on 28 May for posting articles online calling for democracy in China. The sentences bring to 42 the number of cyber-dissidents in jail. Some have been there for more than three years and one, Wu Yilong, has been held since 19 July 1999.
The Beijing intermediate court, ruling more than a year and a half after their trial for "incitement to subversion," sentenced journalist Xu Wei and geologist Jin Haike to 10 years and Internet engineer Yang Zili and writer Zhang Honghai to eight years.
They were arrested on 13 March 2001 and accused at their trial that September of "actively investigating ways to reform society" and of "wanting to change the government to re-establish a liberal political system." The four men, all in their 30s, had posted articles online such as "China’s democracy is a fake" and "Be a new citizen, remake China." Xu had edited the weekly supplement Xiaofei Ribao (Consumers’ Daily).
At this week’s court hearing, Xu said he had been beaten and tortured with electric shocks to his genitals, the organisation Human Rights in China reported. Xu said that after the four had asked for an enquiry into the ill-treatment they had received, their situation got worse.
Reporters Without Borders issued a report on 12 May called "Living dangerously on the Net," about China’s censorship and surveillance of online forums, based on a month-long investigation. Hundreds of Internet forums are monitored round the clock by thousands of officials and police with the job of keeping Chinese cyberspace free of subversive, vulgar and pornographic messages. The report said the forums were both places of free expression as well as traps for Internet users. Dozens of people have been arrested for criticising the government on the forums.
The report is available in three languages (English, French and Spanish) at www.rsf.org