Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns a wave of arrests of Chinese cyber-dissidents in recent months. The authorities are clearly determined to jail anyone displaying support for the revolutions in the Arab world or issuing calls for a similar uprising in China.
Three Internet users who received invitations to ¡°drink tea¡± (a euphemism for a summons to a police station) in the latter part of February ¨C Chen Wei, Ding Mao and the blogger Ran Yunfei ¨C have just been formally charged with inciting subversion of state authority for issuing online appeals for a ¡°Jasmine Revolution¡± in China. Their computers were seized.
Cyber-dissidents normally face up to five years in prison, but Reporters Without Borders is concerned by the precedent of the 11-year sentence that was given to Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and, more recently, the 10-year sentence passed on Liu Xianbin. Like them, Ran and Chen signed Charter 08, a manifesto calling for democratic reforms in China.
The persecution of Charter 08 signatories heightens concern about the disappearance of the famous Chinese-Australian blogger Yang Hengjun for several days. On his arrival at Guangzhou airport on 27 March, he called friend to say he was being followed by three men. Nothing more was heard from him for three days, triggering alarm on the blogosphere. Until today, when he apparently resurfaced.
¡°He called me to say that he¡¯s been sick in hospital and then coughed a couple of times,¡± said Wu Jiaxiang, a former government official who is friend of Yang¡¯s. ¡°It¡¯s impossible for me to say whether Yang was really in hospital.¡±
The situation in China is becoming very worrying, and all the more so after the government¡¯s rejection of a call from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for the immediate release of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose "detention violated international law," according to the UN group.
Referring to the case during a news conference yesterday, a foreign ministry spokesperson said: ¡°We attach importance to cooperation with the UN human rights monitoring mechanism and urge the mechanism to respect China¡¯s judicial sovereignty. China is a country under the rule of law.¡±
Gao has been missing since April 2010. He had just been released after a year in detention and then he disappeared. His friends and family have not heard from him since then. His wife and two child fled the country are now refugees in the United States. The government still refuses to either register Gao as a missing person or to produce a warrant justifying his detention.
Gao was named the winner of this year¡¯s ¡°Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award¡± at the Index on Censorship¡¯s Freedom of Expression awards in London on 24 March.
China is on the list of ¡°Enemies of the Internet¡± which Reporters Without Borders updates every year.