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China 8 December 2003

A cyberdissident jailed for two years

A biology professor has been jailed for two years by a court in Xian, northwestern China for publishing several "subversive" essays on the Internet. In one of his writings, Yan Jun, 32, condemnned the lack of press freedom in China.

Reporters Without Borders has called on Chinese prime minister Wen Jiaboa to release him. "This sentence comes the very day (8 December) that the prime minister is meeting UN Secretary General Koffi Annan," pointed out Robert Ménard, secretary general of the press freedom organisation."We can only note the hypocrisy of the Chinese government that cracks down on cyberdissidents while making a good impression with diplomats and international organisations. "We have seen increasing censorship of the Internet these last few months. The release of young Internet user Liu Di is just a smoke screen thrown up by the Chinese authorities", he added.

In one of the essays, Yan called for a reassessment of the trials of students arrested during the Tiananmen Square massacre on 4 June 1989. In another he called for the release of the former secretary general of the communist party, Zhao Ziyang, put under house arrest after voicing support for students arrested during the events of 1989.

The cyberdissident had to be treated in hospital in July after being beaten by fellow prisoners. His wife has told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that he plans to appeal against his sentence. Yan is a well-known political dissident of long standing. He was first arrested in 1998, during former US President Bill Clinton’s official visit to Xian.

Nine people have been tried since 1 November and sentenced to prison terms of two to ten years in jail, for putting messages critical of the government on the Internet. With 47 prisoners, China is by the far the biggest jail in the world for cyberdissidents.

China is to attend the World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva from 10-12 December. It will attempt to impose its stance - hostile to freedom of expression on the Internet - in the draft statement of principles that will be debated during the summit.

In this country
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Asia press releases
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Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
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Journalists trying to cover fate of Tamils are threatened, obstructed