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China 7 October 2003

Call for release of cyber-dissidents

Reporters Without Borders urged French President Jacques Chirac to lobby for the release of 38 jailed Chinese cyber-dissidents when he meets Chinese vice-premier Chen Zhili in Paris today.

Reporters Without Borders urged French President Jacques Chirac to lobby for the release of 38 jailed Chinese cyber-dissidents and Internet users when he meets Chinese vice-premier Chen Zhili in Paris today at the inauguration of China Year in France.

It said the opening of the cultural festival must not be allowed to obscure the severe crackdown on cyber-dissidents by the authorities, who were trying hard to stamp out online freedom of expression in China.

"The government is using very sophisticated equipment to censor the Internet and hunt down online political dissidents," said the organisation’s secretary-general Robert Ménard. "France must speak up to get China to take meaningful steps towards freedom of expression. President Chirac lobbying for the cyber-dissidents would send a strong political message to China."

China is by far the world’s biggest prison for Internet users, with 38 in jail at last count, nearly a third of them still awaiting trial. Huang Qi, founder of the website www.6-4tiangwang.com, arrested on 3 June 2000 and tortured, was not tried until three years later.

The trial of another cyber-dissident, Ouyang Yi, has only just been set, for 12 October, even though he has been in prison since 4 December last year. He is accused of sending over the Internet to a political dissident the text of a petition calling for democratic reforms.

Two cyber-dissidents, Luo Yongzhong and Li Zhi, were arrested in June for posting online criticism of the new government. Such arrests contradict the government’s pledge to permit freedom of expression.




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