Internet essayist goes on trial

New York, May 18, 2004—Prominent Chinese Internet writer Du Daobin went on trial today at the Intermediate People’s Court in Xiaogan, a city in the central Hubei Province, on subversion charges, according to international news reports.

Du’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, was only notified about the trial on Friday, May 14, and was therefore unable to travel to Xiaogan in time to attend the proceedings, Mo said in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

Instead, a state-appointed lawyer, Li Zongyi, was scheduled to represent Du, according to Human Rights in China, a New York–based advocacy group, but only to plead for a lighter sentence, not to argue the defendant’s innocence.

Du, a prolific and outspoken writer who distributed his essays online, was arrested on October 28, 2003, and brought to the Public Security Bureau in Xiaogan District, Yingcheng, Hubei Province. A formal arrest warrant was sent to his house on November 12, 2003, stating that he was being held on charges of “incitement to subvert state power.” Before his arrest, Du posted essays offering commentary about official policies and social issues in China.

“Du Daobin is being tried, without due process, on spurious charges because of his journalism,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We renew our calls that he and the other 40 journalists imprisoned in China should be released immediately and allowed to continue their work without government interference.”

Du was deeply affected by the arrest of fellow Internet journalist Liu Di, a 23-year-old college student who was detained in Beijing on November 7, 2002. After Liu Di’s arrest, Du vigorously called for her release and co-organized an online campaign to show solidarity by taking a series of actions, including spending one day in a darkened room to symbolically “Accompany Liu Di in Prison.” He also wrote a number of essays supporting Liu Di, who was released on bail on November 28, 2003.

Although Du’s case was initially sent back from the Prosecutor’s Office in Xiaogan in February because of a lack of evidence, the district’s Public Security Bureau then cited a speech Du gave at Huazhong Normal College to support the subversion charges, according to Human Rights in China.

More than 1,000 of Du’s supporters signed an open letter to Premier Wen Jiabao last year demanding his release and the right to free expression, which China’s constitution guarantees.

According to CPJ research, Du was one of six Internet essayists jailed in China last year as part of an ongoing crackdown on free speech online. The other online journalists arrested in 2003 are Cai Lujun, Luo Changfu, Yan Jun, Luo Yongzhong, and Kong Youping.

Read more information on Du’s case.