China: Cyber dissident Wang Xiaoning Freed But Many Chinese Netizens Still In Prison


Reporters Without Borders said it acknowledges the release today of the cyber dissident Wang Xiaoning.

“We are relieved to know that Wang Xiaoning is finally free and we share the joy of his family and friends,” the press freedom organization said. “However, we note that he served his sentence in its entirety and there has been no question of leniency on the part of the Chinese authorities. We urge the latter to allow Wang Xiaoning to lead a normal life and spare him the surveillance and intimidation to which many dissidents are subjected after they leave prison.

“We repeat our appeal for the release of the 67 netizens and journalists still in prison in China for their reporting activities. In particular, we would like to draw attention to the case of the dissident Chen Pingfu, whose trial is due to open on 5 September. The charges against him must be dropped and he must be released as soon as possible.

People's Republic of China
People’s Republic of China

“As regards the leadership of Yahoo !, it would be best if they communicated more clearly how they deal with requests from the Chinese authorities for personal data and other possible instances of collaboration with China’s censors which may not have been made public up to now. It is also vital that the company uses its influence in China to obtain the early release of the journalist and cyber dissident Shi Tao.”

Wang was arrested in September 2002 and sentenced the following September to 10 years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of his civil rights for “incitement to subversion”. He was accused of distributing pro-democracy articles online and via e-mail between 2000 and 2002.

The verdict in his case, published by the website Human Rights in China, refers to several of the articles, one of which was headlined “Never forget that China is still an authoritarian dictatorship.” The document indicates that information provided by the Hong Kong branch of Yahoo ! helped establish a link between Wang and a Yahoo ! discussion group. It said the moderators of the group, which was hosted by Yahoo !, decided to remove him from the forum.

The US company provided information that helped the Chinese authorities to arrest at least four cyber dissidents since 2002, including Wang. Of the four, only the dissident journalist Shi Tao, sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for posting “subversive” articles on the Internet, remains behind bars. Li Zhi, who was freed last year, received an eight-year sentence and Jiang Lijun was released in 2006 after serving a four-year term.

The families of Shi Tao and Wang Xiaoning launched a lawsuit against Yahoo ! in 2007, which was finally settled, with the US firm agreeing to set up a special fund to provide assistance to Chinese cyber dissidents. It also joined the Global Network Initiative, aimed at preventing online censorship and protecting the Internet privacy of individuals, and adopted a code of conduct designed to improve respect for freedom of expression in operations in countries where there is little respect for human rights.

The US Congress held a series of hearings as a result of the Shi Tao case, to which officials from Yahoo !, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems were summoned. A bill entitled the Global Online Freedom Act, designed to prevent US companies from cooperating with repressive governments, was presented in the House of Representatives.

The blogger Chen Pingfu, whose trial is scheduled to open on 5 September, is also accused of “incitement to subversion”. He has been under house arrest since April on the orders of the public security bureau of Dulan County for criticizing the country’s policies in a number of articles.

The municipal court in Lanzhou, which reviewed the case, found out that, between July 2007 and March this year, the netizen wrote more than 30 articles on various political movements in China which were published on the Internet platforms Wangyi, Baidu, Souhu, Shiguang (MTime), Xinlang (Sina), Tianya, etc.

The court deemed his comments and ideas subversive, amounting to an attack on the party and government. The cyber dissident was said to have insulted the People’s Republic of China and used defamatory language about the government and the Socialist system.

For the time being the blogger, who is in frail health, does not have the financial means to hire a lawyer. An appeal to provide him with a lawyer has been launched via a blog by Chinese Human Right Defenders.

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