CPJ protests detention of journalists

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned by the prolonged detention of writers Yang Zili, Xu Wei, Jin Haike, and Zhang Honghai. On April 21, the Beijing Intermediate Court reopened the trial against the four men, who were arrested in March 2001. No verdict has been announced.

On March 13, 2001, Yang, a writer and computer engineer; Xu, a reporter for Xiaofei Ribao (Consumer Daily); Jin, a geologist and writer; and Zhang, a free-lance writer, were detained and later charged with subversion. On September 28, 2001, the Beijing Intermediate Court initiated legal proceedings against the four, but no verdict was announced at that time. The case was then stalled until this week, when the court recommenced proceedings.

Yang, Xu, Jin, and Zhang—all recent college graduates—were participants in the “Xin Qingnian Xuehui” (New Youth Study Group), an informal gathering of individuals who explored topics related to political reform, economic inequalities, and rural issues. They used the Internet to circulate relevant articles.

During the trial in September 2001, prosecutors focused predominately on the group’s writings, including two essays circulated on the Internet titled, “Be a new citizen, reform China” and “What’s to be done?” According to the indictment papers filed against the four, these articles demonstrated the group’s intention “to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and the socialist system and subvert the regime of the people’s democratic dictatorship.”

The lawyers for the four men have argued that the failure to issue a verdict in the case violates China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which stipulates that a court must pronounce judgment within six weeks after accepting a case. Yang, Xu, Jin, and Zhang have been detained for more than two years without being convicted of any crime.

As part of an ongoing crackdown on online speech, Your Excellency’s government has imposed numerous stringent regulations, monitored the private activities of individual Internet users, and blocked access to thousands of Web sites. Fifteen people are currently in prison in China for publishing or distributing information online.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending our colleagues worldwide, CPJ condemns the detention of Yang, Xu, Jin, and Zhang. 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 release of Yang Zili, Xu Wei, Jin Haike, and Zhang Honghai, and for all charges against them to be dropped.

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


Joel Simon
Acting Director