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China 7 March 2006

Release of cyberdissident Cai Lujun at the end of his sentence

Reporters Without Borders notes the release on 3 March 2006 of Cai Lujun, aged 38, after three years in prison.

Accused of posting a series of articles online criticising the Chinese government, he was put under house arrest on 22 February 2003 and then imprisoned the following month at No. 1 jail in the city of Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, central Chine. At his trial, which was held behind closed doors, he was found guilty of “incitement to subversion” and sentenced to three years in prison on 30 October 2003.


Heavy jail sentences for pro-democracy cyber-dissidents

Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage today at "totally unjustified" long prison sentences passed on five cyber-dissidents accused of subversion by calling for liberal and democratic reforms in China.

Ten-year sentences on journalist Xu Wei and geologist Jin Haike were confirmed on appeal on 10 November by the Beijing Intermediate Court, which also upheld eight-year terms for computer expert Yang Zili and writer Zang Honghai. A court in Shijiazhuang sentenced businessman Cai Lijun to three years on 30 October for the same reason.

"The Chinese authorities continue to repress cyber-dissidence with an iron hand," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "All these five were simply voicing their opinions. Their sentences are totally unjustified." He called on public security minister Zhou Yongkang to release Yang Zili, Xu Wei, Jin Haike and Zang Honghai at once and urged leniency towards Cai Lujun.

Cai, 35, was arrested on 21 February this year after posting four articles online criticising the government and calling for democratic reforms. The articles - entitled "Towards Chinese democracy," "These wretched second-class citizens," "The present political monopoly and its weaknesses" and "Guidelines for rebuilding and leading the country" - were posted on a foreign-based website. Cai’s family plans to appeal against his sentence, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre of Human Rights and Democracy.

Yang, founder of the website (better known as "Yang Chi’s Garden of Ideas"), had called in online articles for political democratisation, criticised repression of the Falungong spiritual movement and deplored the problems faced by the peasantry. The other three whose appeals were heard were also convicted of posting pro-democracy material on the website, as well as being members of a discussion group called The New Youth Society. The four have been in prison since March 2001 and were originally sentenced on 29 May.

Reporters Without Borders protested on 6 November against the severity of an eight-year sentence passed on He Depu, a member of the China Democracy Party and author of many online articles, by the Beijing no. 1 court.

The public security minister called in mid-October for legal procedure deadlines to be respected and for courts to deal with all long-delayed cases, which may explain the much increased number of cyber-dissidents being tried. The minister spoke at the 16th congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and in the context of constitutional reforms aimed at improving civil liberties.

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