New York, June 11, 2004—Du Daobin, a Chinese Internet essayist, was convicted of subversion today but received a suspended three-year sentence from the Intermediate People’s Court in Xiaogan, a city in the central Hubei Province, according to international news reports.
Du’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told Agence France-Presse that Du was released from prison today after the court hearing.
Du was found guilty of “overtly instigating and subverting state power” because of 26 articles he posted online from May 2002 through October 2003, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Du’s three-year prison sentence was commuted to four years of probation, and he will be denied his political rights for two years, according to international news reports. A court official told the Associated Press that Du would be restricted to Hubei, his home province.
Xinhua reported that Du had received a lenient sentence because “he was quite cooperative during interrogation.” Although Xinhua also reported that Du had “confessed to his criminal activities during interrogation,” Mo told Agence France-Presse that Du had not admitted to any criminal acts. Instead, Mo said that Du had only confirmed to the court that he had written the essays.
Du was tried on subversion charges on May 18. His trial date was announced only four days prior, so Mo was unable to represent him. Instead, a court-appointed lawyer entered a guilty plea, according to news reports.
“We welcome the news of Du Daobin’s relatively light sentence, but we condemn his conviction on these phony charges,” said Joel Simon, CPJ deputy director. “Du should be cleared of this conviction immediately. Journalists should not be punished for exercising their constitutional right to free speech,” Simon said.
Du was arrested on Oct. 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 Nov. 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 was an outspoken advocate for fellow Internet journalist Liu Di, a 23-year-old college student who was detained in Beijing on Nov. 7, 2002. After Liu’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, who was released on bail on Nov. 28, 2003.
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.
China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, with 41 writers and reporters still behind bars.