Prominent journalists call for release of Chinese reporter

New York, New York, February 14, 2002–CPJ delivered nearly 600 petitions to Chinese president Jiang Zemin today calling for the release of journalist Jiang Weiping, a recipient of CPJ’s 2001 International Press Freedom Award. The petitions urge President Jiang to “release Jiang Weiping and other jailed Chinese journalists immediately and unconditionally, and to uphold the rights of all journalists to work freely and safely.”

The signatories include former U.S. ambassador to China Winston Lord, CBS News anchor Dan Rather, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, New York Times executive editor Howell Raines, veteran CBS reporter Walter Cronkite, CBS News president Andrew Heyward, NBC News anchor John Seigenthaler, veteran journalist and Pulitzer Prize committee member Seymour Topping, CNN correspondent Andrea Koppel, New Yorker editor David Remnick, and New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis.

“Putting a journalist behind bars for doing his job and reporting the truth is wrong,” said signatory Walter Cronkite. “We call on China to let Jiang Weiping out of jail.”

Imprisoned for uncovering corruption
A former reporter for Wen Hui Bao newspaper and the official Xinhua News Agency, Jiang was arrested in December 2000 and secretly tried on September 5, 2001. Authorities targeted Jiang after articles he wrote for the Hong Kong magazine Qianshao (Frontline) revealed major corruption scandals involving well-connected leaders in northeastern China.

On January 25, 2002, the Dalian Intermediate Court formally sentenced Jiang Weiping to eight years in prison on charges including “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegally providing state secrets overseas.” This judgment amended an earlier decision to sentence Jiang to nine years.

During the sentencing, Jiang proclaimed his innocence and told the court that the verdict “trampled on the law,” according to CPJ sources. His family was not allowed to attend the proceedings.

Jiang is one of 35 journalists currently imprisoned in China, which jails more journalists than any other country in the world. According to CPJ sources, Jiang has a serious stomach disorder and has been refused medical treatment. His family has not been allowed to visit or speak with him since his arrest 14 months ago.

“Reporting on corruption is a basic responsibility of any journalist,” said Terry Anderson, former chief Middle East correspondent for The Associated Press and a petition signatory. “By jailing Jiang, the Chinese government is simply protecting dishonest officials. This is not only unjust, it is foolish.”