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Internet essayist Liu Di released on bail

(RSF/IFEX) - The Chinese authorities have released Internet essayist Liu Di on bail. Her family told RSF that police released her from secret detention on 28 November 2003 and that she had returned to her home in Beijing. The 23-year-old student had been held incommunicado since November 2002, after she posted messages on online discussion forums using the pseudonym "stainless steel mouse". Two other cyber-dissidents - Wu Yiran, aged 34, and Li Yibin, aged 29 - were also released the same day.

At least two people have been imprisoned for protesting online about Liu Di's detention without trial. In 2003, hundreds of Chinese citizens have taken the risk of signing an online petition calling for her release.

RSF welcomed the releases. The organisation pointed out, however, that more than 40 cyber-dissidents are imprisoned in China for posting messages on the Internet that were critical of the authorities. In November alone, eight persons were sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to 10 years. "The Chinese government is making a positive gesture towards the international community," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said. "However, we condemn the hypocrisy of the Chinese justice system, which acts for the sake of appearances, for diplomatic reasons, but continues to crack down on freedom of expression on the Internet on a daily basis."

These releases come three days ahead of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's visit to China and one week before Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao travels to the United States. The German government recently expressed its concern over China's curbs on freedom of expression on the Internet.

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