Reporters Without Borders condemns the four-year prison sentence that a court in the eastern city of Nanjing imposed on Sun Lin, a journalist better known by the pen-name Jie Mu, on 27 June. A contributor to the overseas Chinese news website Boxun, Sun was convicted of “gathering crowds to cause social unrest” and “illegal possession of firearms.” His wife, He Fang, who also contributes to Boxun, was released after being given a suspended prison sentence.
“Two well-known news website contributors have been given jail terms after an investigation marked by mendacious allegations and a trial marred by irregularities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This is yet another tragic example of the government's inability to tolerate journalists who dare to report news freely, without constraint or censorship.”
The press freedom organisation calls for the release of Sun and the one hundred other journalists, cyber-dissidents and press freedom activists currently held in China.
The verdict was issued in a hearing held in the absence of Sun's family and lawyer as they had not been told it was going to take place. Sun's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told a Radio Free Asia journalist: “Under the code of criminal procedure, the court should wait three days after announcing a hearing. And a court should issue its verdict publicly. This court violated both principles.” Mo hopes to see his client in the next few days to discuss an appeal.
Boxun issued a statement saying Sun had been punished for his work as a citizen journalist, above all for his video reports.
Sun, who along with his wife had been held in Nanjing since 30 May 2007, has always denied the two charges. He told his lawyer that the police mainly questioned him about his journalistic activities and told him he had been arrested for refusing to stop reporting and writing articles for Boxun.
Sun said the firearms charge was based on false statements by persons who claimed that he gave them air pistols. He does not even know one of these persons. He added that the charge of disturbing the peace was based on an incident in 2004 when he was trying to help evicted people and did nothing illegal.
Sun, who also founded the now-banned newspaper Da Du Shi, told Reporters Without Borders before his arrest that he had written articles about abuse of authority but had never done anything illegal.