11 December 2003
Cyber-dissident Li Zhi sentenced to eight years in prison
(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a WAN and World Editors Forum (WEF) letter to Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang:
The Right Honourable Zhou Yongkang
Public Security Minister
Beijing, People's Republic of China
C/o HE Ambassador to UK
11 December 2003
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 100 countries, to express our serious concern at the sentencing to jail for eight years of cyber-dissident Li Zhi.
According to reports, on 11 December the Dazhou Intermediate People's Court in Sichuan province sentenced Mr Li to eight years in jail for subversion. Mr Li, who used to work in Dazhou city's finance department, was arrested in August after posting an essay on an overseas website accusing Sichuan officials of corruption. In the essay, Mr Li also made reference to your activities as former party secretary for Sichuan. He was also accused of discussing corruption among high-ranking officials in Internet chatrooms.
We respectfully remind you that the jailing of Mr Li constitutes a clear breach of his right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers that 'detention, as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion, is one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and, as a consequence, a grave violation of human rights'.
We are seriously concerned at the continuing crackdown on those who criticise the government online, as illustrated by the recent jailing of Internet writers Yan Jun, Jiang Lijun, Jin Haike, Xu Wei, Yang Zili, Zhang Honghai, Huang Qi, Tao Haidong, Guo Qinghai, Huang Qi, Liu Weifang, Qi Yanchen, Chen Shaowen, Liao Yiwu, Liu Di and Ouyang Yi. According to reports, up to 46 people are currently in prison for setting up independent news websites or for posting material criticising authorities online.
We respectfully call on you to do everything possible to ensure that Mr Li and all others held for exercising their right to freedom of expression are immediately released from jail. We urge you to take all necessary steps to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of freedom of expression.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Seok Hyun Hong
World Association of Newspapers
Gloria Brown Anderson
World Editors Forum
cc : Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations
Mr Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General, UNESCO