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Cyber-dissident Ouyang Yi sentenced to two years in prison

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has condemned the two-year prison sentence given to cyber-dissident Ouyang Yi for "incitement to subversion". The verdict was announced on 16 March 2004 during an in camera hearing by the Intermediate People's Court in Chengdu, southwestern China.

Much like other recent court decisions, Ouyang Yi's sentence was intended "to silence a voice that diverges from the Chinese Communist Party line," RSF said. The organisation deplored the fact that Chinese courts persist in persecuting persons for expressing their opinions on the Internet.

In November 2002, Ouyang Yi, a 36-year-old teacher, wrote an open letter to the Chinese Communist Party Congress asking for a gradual move towards greater democracy in the country. Ouyang Yi's open letter was later revised and distributed by a group of 192 signatories. The revised version of his letter was used in the court case against the cyber-dissident, contrary to Chinese law, which states that an original letter must be supplied as evidence in a trial.

Despite this illegal procedure, Ouyang Yi's family decided not to appeal his sentence, fearing an even heavier sentence. "It just isn't worth it with the Communist government," the cyber-dissident's sister-in-law said.

Ouyang Yi's lawyer was able to visit him and said he is in good health. The cyber-dissident is being held in a temporary detention centre, where conditions are particularly harsh. His wife has been told that she will be allowed to visit her husband in early April.

In July 2002, Ouyang Yi created a website to promote democracy. He posted a number of political articles online, including articles about the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The cyber-dissident was arrested for the fifth time in six years on 4 December 2002. Until then, he had never been detained for longer than 48 hours. Ouyang Yi is the first cyber-dissident to be sentenced to a prison term since "respect for human rights" was incorporated into the Chinese constitution at the last meeting of the National People's Congress.

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