Reporters Without Borders is pleased to receive news of the well-known human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), who has been the victim of a series of mysterious abductions and disappearances orchestrated by the Chinese authorities since February 2009.
His brother, Gao Zhiyi, told Agence France-Presse yesterday that he was able to visit him a few days ago in Shaya prison in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. He did not however provide any additional details.
After resurfacing in March 2010, Gao Zhisheng went missing again the following month and nothing was known of his whereabouts until the official New China (新华) news agency reported on 16 December 2011 that he was being held in a prison without saying which one. His brother finally reported on 1 January that he had just received an official letter saying it was Shaya prison.
Reporters Without Borders has been very concerned about Gao and raised his case in an open letter to Vice-President Xi Jinping on 15 February during Xi’s visit to the United States.
Enforced disappearance and mistreatment of detainees has become commonplace in China. Under amendments to the criminal procedure law approved two weeks ago, the authorities are supposed to notify relatives within 24 hours when someone is arrested.
But the amendments also allow them to hold detainees incommunicado in a secret location when relatives cannot be found or when notifying them might hamper an investigation involving a terrorist threat or a threat to national security.
04/01/2012 - Arrests, trials and sentences offer no respite for Chinese dissidents
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its condemnation of the government’s persecution of human rights defenders and dissidents, which was stepped up during the end-of-year holiday period with a wave of arbitrary arrests, unfair trials and long jail sentences targeting cyber-dissidents in particular.
Gao Zhiyi, the brother of the well-known human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), reported on 1 January that he had just received an official letter confirming that Gao has been jailed. The New China government news agency had announced on 16 December that Gao was in detention but it was not known where. The letter said he is being held in Shaya prison in Xinjiang, a remote northwestern region that is notorious as China’s “gulag.”
Two other human rights defenders, the lawyerNi Yulan (倪玉兰) and her husband Dong Jiqin (董继勤), are currently being tried in Beijing on charges of disturbing public order, destroying public and private property, and offensive treatment of other persons, with aggravating circumstances. Ni is also accused of fraud.
After an initial hearing on 29 December, the court adjourned to issue its verdict on a date that has not yet been scheduled. The couple has been detained since April pending trial. Ni has serious health problems due to injuries received during an earlier spell in prison in 2002.
The start of their trial came just days after two cyber-dissidents received long jail sentences in western China on subversion charges. A Sichuan court gave Chen Wei (陈卫) a nine-year sentence on 23 December. Then, on 26 December, a Guizhou court sentenced Chen Youcai (陈友才), who uses the pen-name of Chen Xi (陈西), to 11 years in prison.
The pace of these trials suggests that there will be no let-up in 2012.
The following three cyber-dissidents were released in the past two months on completing their jail sentences, but 68 others continue to be detained in connection with their online reporting activities, which makes China the world’s biggest prison for cyber-dissidents :
- Wang Lihong (王荔蕻) was released on 20 December on completing the nine-month sentence she received on a charge of disturbing public order.
- Zheng Yichun (郑贻春), a dissident writer, was released on 19 December on completing a seven-year sentence on a subversion charge. He will continue to be deprived of his political rights for the next three years. His relatives had been forbidden to talk to foreign news media.
- Chen Jianping (程建萍), an activist, was released on 9 November on completing a sentence of one-year in a labour camp for retweeting a satirical comment about tension between China and Japan. She will remain under police surveillance.
Another cyber-dissident gets long jail term for “subversive” articles
Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the severity of the 10-year jail sentence that a court in Guiyang, the capital of the southwestern province of Guizhou, passed today on Chen Youcai (陈友才), a dissident writer who uses the pen-name of Chen Xi (陈西).
Convicted of inciting subversion in a total of 36 articles posted on various websites, he was also sentenced to three years without civil rights after his release. The long jail term was imposed just three days after a court in neighbouring Sichuan province sentenced Chen Wei (陈卫), another cyber-dissident, to nine years in prison on a similar charge.
“The Chinese authorities have again used the holiday period to impose a series of particularly severe sentences on pro-democracy activists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The ‘subversion’ charge is just a pretext for silencing dissidents such as Chen Xi and Chen Wei and encouraging self-censorship. We call on the authorities to free them and all other political prisoners.”
The Hong Kong-based NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders said the defence lawyer was repeatedly interrupted during today’s summary and unfair trial. Arrested on 29 November, Chen Xi said he would not appeal because it seemed pointless.
A veteran pro-democracy campaigner, he has already spent a total of 13 years in prison in connection with his activism. This clearly did not count in his favour in the court’s eyes.
Writer gets nine-year jail sentence for articles posted online
Reporters Without Borders condemns the exceptionally severe and unjust nine-year jail sentence that a court in Suining, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, imposed today on the writer and human rights activist Chen Wei (陈卫) on a charge of inciting subversion of state authority in articles he posted online.
The court also ordered that Chen, 42, should be deprived of his civil rights for the first two years after his release. According to the Hong Kong-based NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders, the trial lasted less than three hours.
A resident of Suining, Chen went missing after responding to an invitation to “have tea” with the local police on the morning of 20 February, during a crackdown on dissidents prompted by calls for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China. He was formally arrested the next day after police searched his home, seizing his computer, hard disks and USB flash drives.
Two other Sichuan-based netizens, Ran Yunfei (冉云飞) and Ding Mao (丁矛), were arrested at around the same time as Chen on the same charge. Ran was released on 10 August and Ding was released on 1 December, but both were placed under residential surveillance for 6 months.
Blogger released from prison but placed under residential surveillance
Reporters Without Borders hails today’s release of the Chinese blogger Ran Yunfei (冉云飞) but regrets that he has been placed under residential surveillance at his home in Sichuan for six months, during which time he will be forbidden to express himself publicly.
Detained on 20 February during a wave of arrests aimed at preventing a “jasmine revolution,” Ran is charged with inciting subversion of state authority. His case has been referred to the police.
During his detention, Twitter users created a blog where English translations of his writings were posted.
Other cyber-dissidents were arrested at the same time as Ran. They include Chen Wei (陈卫) and Ding Mao (丁矛), who are also from Sichuan province. They are being prosecuted on the same charge as Ran and, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, are still detained – Chen in Suining and Ding in Mianyang.
Wang Lihong (王荔蕻), a cyber-dissident who was arrested on 21 March, is also still detained. She is due to be tried on 12 August, when she will face the possibility of a five-year jail sentence.
Guo Weidong (郭卫东), a netizen who was arrested 11 March, was released on bail on 10 April pending trial on the same charge of inciting subversion of state authority.
Reporters Without Borders urges the Chinese authorities to release these cyber-dissidents unconditionally, to drop the charges against them, and to return all the equipment and material that was confiscated from them.
Authorities step up pressure on cyber-dissident
March 30, 2011
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns a wave of arrests of Chinese cyber-dissidents in recent months. The authorities are clearly determined to jail anyone displaying support for the revolutions in the Arab world or issuing calls for a similar uprising in China.
Three Internet users who received invitations to “drink tea” (a euphemism for a summons to a police station) in the latter part of February – Chen Wei, Ding Mao and the blogger Ran Yunfei – have just been formally charged with inciting subversion of state authority for issuing online appeals for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China. Their computers were seized.
Cyber-dissidents normally face up to five years in prison, but Reporters Without Borders is concerned by the precedent of the 11-year sentence that was given to Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and, more recently, the 10-year sentence passed on Liu Xianbin. Like them, Ran and Chen signed Charter 08, a manifesto calling for democratic reforms in China.
The persecution of Charter 08 signatories heightens concern about the disappearance of the famous Chinese-Australian blogger Yang Hengjun for several days. On his arrival at Guangzhou airport on 27 March, he called friend to say he was being followed by three men. Nothing more was heard from him for three days, triggering alarm on the blogosphere. Until today, when he apparently resurfaced.
“He called me to say that he’s been sick in hospital and then coughed a couple of times,” said Wu Jiaxiang, a former government official who is friend of Yang’s. “It’s impossible for me to say whether Yang was really in hospital.”
The situation in China is becoming very worrying, and all the more so after the government’s rejection of a call from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for the immediate release of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose "detention violated international law," according to the UN group.
Referring to the case during a news conference yesterday, a foreign ministry spokesperson said: “We attach importance to cooperation with the UN human rights monitoring mechanism and urge the mechanism to respect China’s judicial sovereignty. China is a country under the rule of law.”
Gao has been missing since April 2010. He had just been released after a year in detention and then he disappeared. His friends and family have not heard from him since then. His wife and two child fled the country are now refugees in the United States. The government still refuses to either register Gao as a missing person or to produce a warrant justifying his detention.
Gao was named the winner of this year’s “Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award” at the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression awards in London on 24 March.
China is on the list of “Enemies of the Internet” which Reporters Without Borders updates every year.