Internet writer freedCrackdown on online speech continues

New York, December 1, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes the release of Internet writer Liu Di but is gravely concerned that another Internet essayist, Du Daobin, has been charged with “subversion” and remains in jail.

On November 28, Internet writer Liu Di, 23, was released from prison on bail. Liu, a psychology student at Beijing Normal University, was arrested on November 7, 2002, and held in Beijing’s Qincheng Prison. Authorities later informed her family that she was accused of “endangering national security.” On October 31, 2003, prosecutors returned the case to investigators citing a lack of evidence, and she has not been formally charged.

Before her arrest, Liu was a prolific contributor to a number of Internet forums, where she used the pen name “Stainless Steel Mouse” to post essays calling for political and social reforms in China. In recent months, the Chinese government has escalated an ongoing crackdown on online expression by arresting numerous activists and writers who publish their political opinions online.

On October 28, 2003, Du Daobin, who published his commentaries about a variety of social and political issues on overseas Web sites, was arrested in Yingcheng, Hubei Province. On November 12, police delivered a formal arrest warrant to his wife, charging Du, 39, with “subversion.” He has not yet been tried.

The case of Du, a prominent and well-respected writer, has generated unprecedented public condemnation in China. In open letters to Premier Wen Jiabao, more than 1,000 supporters, including Chinese journalists, academics, lawyers, and others, have demanded Du’s release and called for the government to protect the right to free expression, which is guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution. Premier Wen is scheduled to meet with President Bush during a four-day visit to the United States beginning December 7.

According to CPJ research, 16 people are currently imprisoned in China for writing or distributing information online. With a total of 38 journalists in prison, China remains the world’s leading jailer of journalists.

“While CPJ is relieved that Liu Di has been released from jail, she will not be truly free until the criminal case against her is dropped,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “As both Liu Di’s and Du Daobin’s cases show, Chinese authorities are willing to arrest anyone who uses the Internet to criticize official policies, whether or not evidence of a crime exists. China’s leaders should heed the calls of the numerous citizens who have rightfully demanded Du’s release.”

For more information about Liu Di and Du Daobin, please see CPJ’s November 3 protest letter and an editorial from The Asian Wall Street Journal, “A Brave Student Becomes a Symbol of Modern China,” by Sophie Beach.