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HRW urges computer industry to speak out on Chinese Internet case

(HRW/IFEX) - Human Rights Watch is urging major Internet service providers
such as Microsoft, America On-Line, and AT&T to publicly condemn the
two-year jail sentence handed down on 20 January 1999 to Lin Hai, a computer
company owner in Shanghai.

**Updates IFEX alerts of 20 January and 9 December 1999**

Lin Hai was tried on 4 December 1998 in a thirty-minute trial; on 20
January, he was found guilty of "incitement to subvert the state" and
sentenced for
providing some 30,000 Chinese e-mail addresses to a U.S.-based on-line
magazine. The magazine, "V.I.P Reference News", is run by Chinese dissidents
in Washington.

"This harsh punishment reflects the Chinese government's anxiety about
growing use of the Internet, and its own inability to control information
flows," said Sidney Jones, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "It warrants
a strong response, not just from human rights organizations but from the
computer software industry as well, particularly from companies trying to
expand the market for Internet usage." Jones said that Human Rights Watch
hoped to see a public statement on the Lin Hai case from industry giants
like Microsoft.

Lin Hai's case follows a series of recent attempts by the Chinese government
to step up monitoring of e-mail communications. Chinese authorities control
access to the World Wide Web via the Ministry of Post and
Telecommunications. They routinely block access to the web sites of many
foreign media and some human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch said the arrest and sentencing of Lin Hai was a clear
violation of freedom of expression, a right guaranteed not only by a major
treaty that China has just signed, the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, but also by the Chinese constitution.

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