CPJ condemns arrest of Internet essayist

September 24, 2002

His Excellency Jiang Zemin
President, People’s Republic of China
C/o Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20008

Via facsimile: (202) 588-0032

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the recent arrest of Internet essayist Chen Shaowen. Chen was arrested on suspicion of “using the Internet to subvert state power,” according to a report in the official Hunan Daily.

The Hunan Daily article, published on September 14, does not give the date of Chen’s arrest, although Boxun News, an overseas online news service, reported that he was arrested on August 6.

Chen Shaowen, who lives in Lianyuan, Hunan Province, has written numerous essays and articles for various overseas Chinese-language Web sites, including Huang Hua Gang magazine and Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum). According to his author’s biography on the Minzhu Luntan website (http://asiademo.org), Chen’s essays covered topics including China’s unemployment problem, social inequalities, and flaws within the legal system.

The Hunan Daily article accused Chen of, “repeatedly browsing reactionary websites … sending in numerous articles of all sorts, fabricating, distorting and exaggerating relevant facts, and vilifying the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system.” The report stated that Chen had published more than 40 articles on overseas “reactionary” Web sites.

Chen’s case is still under investigation, and it is not clear whether he has been formally charged.

Chen’s arrest is the latest in a series of moves by Your Excellency’s government to rein in citizens’ use of the Internet. Last month, domestic access to the Google and AltaVista Internet search engines were blocked, and your government has required all domestic Web publishers to censor their sites of any unsanctioned content. Chen’s arrest brings to 14 the number of journalists currently in prison for publishing or distributing information online. Authorities have charged eleven of them with subversion.

As a non-partisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ condemns your government’s routine use of subversion charges to suppress online speech. Chen Shaowen has done nothing more than peacefully express an independent viewpoint, a right that is protected under China’s constitution as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed.

We call for Chen’s immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We await your response.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director