Reporters Without Borders condemned as abusive a two-year prison sentence imposed on cyberdissident Ouyang Yi by a court in south-western Chengdu, for "incitement to subversion". The verdict was announced behind closed doors.
The sentence was as usual intended to brutally silence a voice that diverges from the Chinese Communist Party line, said the international press freedom organisation. It deplored the fact that Chinese courts persist in persecuting those simply expressing an opinion on the Internet.
Ouyang, who was sentenced by Chengdu’s intermediate people’s court on 16 March, wrote an open letter to the Chinese Communist Party Congress in November 2002 asking for a gradual evolution towards greater democracy in the country.
The letter was picked up and modified by a group of 192 signatories and it was this revised version that was used in the court case against the cyberdissident, contrary to Chinese law that says an original should be supplied as evidence in any trial.
Despite this, fearing an even heavier sentence, the family decided against an appeal. "With the communist government, it is not worth it," his sister-in-law said.
His lawyer has been able to visit Ouyang, whom he said was in good health. He is still being held in a temporary detention centre where conditions are particularly harsh. His wife has been told she can visit him at the beginning of April.
Ouyang, a teacher aged 36, also created, in July 2002, an Internet site to promote democracy. He posted a number of political articles online, particularly on the Tiananmen Square massacre.
He was arrested for the fifth time in six years on 4 December 2002, but until then he had never been detained for longer than 48 hours. He is the first cyberdissident sentenced to a prison term since respect for human rights was incorporated into the Chinese Constitution at the last National People’s Congress.