The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the detention of Luo Yongzhong, a free-lance writer who has published more than 150 articles online, according to the New Yorkbased organization Human Rights in China (HRIC).
According to HRIC, on June 13, Chinese national security officials arrested Luo from his apartment in the northeastern city of Changchun, the capital of Jilin Province. The officials also searched Luo's home, confiscating his computer, printer, and copies of his writings.
The South China Morning Post reported that a spokesperson from the Jilin Provincial National Security Department denied that Luo had been detained. But evidence from HRIC suggests otherwise. Although it is not clear whether Luo has been formally charged, his older brother told HRIC that Luo is being held at the No. 3 Detention Center, in Changchun.
Luo's articles, many of which are still available online, address topics ranging from the plight of disabled people in China to the need for constitutional reform to ensure greater human rights protections. Luo himself suffers from a physical disability.
The Chinese-language website Boxun News, which is based in the U.S., has published several articles and essays carrying Luo's byline (though the site includes a disclaimer that the material should not be used as evidence to prosecute Luo since the articles were obtained simply by searching the Internet, and it is impossible to verify the author's true identity). In one of these essays attributed to Luo, dated December 13, 2002, and titled, "Turn mob mentality into citizen's democracy," the writer argues that, "Legal assistance cannot help the weak to protect their rights if we do not have a democratic supervising system that belongs to the people." (http://www.boxun.com/hero/huangsd/96_1.shtml)
In an essay dated December 18, 2002, Luo writes that, "Human rights and democracy aren't something that the government would like everybody to discuss, because it is thought to be anti-government, unpatriotic. But I believe that a patriot must first of all try to uphold human rights and democracy." (http://www.boxun.com/hero/huangsd/92_1.shtml)
HRIC obtained another article by Luo that focused on the absence of legal protections for free speech in China.
Luo's arrest is the latest casualty of an ongoing crackdown on online speech. During the last several years, the government has imposed numerous stringent regulations on Internet content, has intensified efforts to monitor the private activities of individual Internet users, and has blocked access to thousands of Web sites.
As an independent organization of journalists dedicated to defending our colleagues worldwide, CPJ condemns Luo's detention. The peaceful expression of personal views should never be considered a crime. We respectfully remind Your Excellency that both the Chinese Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed, guarantee the right to freedom of expression.
We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Luo Yongzhong.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your response.
Ann K. Cooper