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China 17 March 2004

Closed-doors trial for Zhang Shengqi

The trial of Zhang Shengqi and two other members of the clandestine Catholic Church opened on 16 March 2004 behind closed doors. All three are accused of "divulging state secrets".

Liu Fenggang is accused of carrying out research for a report exposing Chinese government repression of the clandestine Catholic Church. Xu Yonghai is on trial for having printed the report and Zhang Shengqi for undertaking to post it on the Internet and to send it electronically to organisations abroad.

Families were not allowed to attend this first hearing, at the end of which no verdict was announced.

Computer firm employee Zhang Shengqi has been arrested for publishing articles on the Internet in support of the banned Christian church.

Reporters Without Borders has called on Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to release the 23-year-old Zhang, who was picked up on 26 November. He reportedly published articles by Liu Fenggang, a historian of the church who is also in jail. "Zhang’s is the first case of a cyberdissident jailed for expressing support for the banned Christian church," said Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. "He has been accused of divulging state secrets, when in fact he only published articles on the government crackdown on his religious community," he said. "We condemn this abusive use of the concept of state secrets, regularly used by the authorities to make unfair arrests. "We hope that, as in the cases of cyberdissidents Liu Di and Ouyang Yi, the law will recognise that Zhang Shengqi’s imprisonment is unjustified," he added.

Zhang was arrested at the home of his fiancé in the northern town of Jilin. Police also searched the house thoroughly and seized around 20 items, including Zhang’s mobile telephone and articles written Liu Fenggang.

The China Aid Association said the cyberdissident was then transferred to Hangzou prison in the east of the country. The association said that the charge against Zhang was now official.

His fiancé, Ye Jifei, was also questioned by police on 28 and 29 November. She was not however imprisoned. According to the site, Ye and Zhang worked together at the same computer firm.

Elsewhere, Reporters Without Borders has learned that the announcement of the verdict against cyberdissident Ouyang Yi, jailed since December 2002, has been postponed for one month. The courts appear in fact to have adjourned the case for lack of evidence. The accused was tried in October but no verdict was pronounced.

The Beijing prosecutor’s office also sent back the trial of Liu Di for the same reasons. She was released soon afterwards.

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