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China 1 October 2003

Cyber-dissident Qi Yanchen freed early

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today welcomed the release from prison of cyber-dissident Qi Yanchen before completion of his four-year sentence for alleged subversion and "putting out anti-government news" by posting pro-democracy articles on the Internet. He was released on 1 May, the press freedom organisation has been able to confirm.

China remains however by far the world’s biggest prison for cyber-dissidents and Internet users, with at least 37 currently in jail for speaking out online, including webmaster Huang Qi and a young web user, Liu Di.

Qi Yanchen, an economist who published many articles online and in foreign-based media, was freed from prison no.4 in Shijiazhuang, south of Beijing. He was convicted and sentenced by a court in Cangzhou (Hebei province) in September 2000, after being arrested in September 1999.

After being freed, he returned to his home in Cangzhou to rest and get treatment for his health problems, include a middle-ear infection, colitis and gallstones. He refused to say why he was freed early. In August, he began working at a private firm in Beijing, where he now lives.

Qi was one of the first Chinese dissidents to be given a lengthy prison sentence for posting material on the Internet. Thousands of Internet users and European websites campaigned for his release.

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