Court rejects appeal of Internet essayist

New York, August 11, 2004—A Chinese high court today rejected the appeal of Internet essayist Du Daobin, who was convicted in June on charges of subversion.

The Supreme People’s Court of Hubei Province in Xiaogan City upheld charges of “overtly instigating and subverting state power,” according to Xinhua state news agency. Today’s ruling upheld a lower court’s June 11 sentencing of the former civil servant to three years in prison suspended for four years.

In his appeal, Du, 40, disputed the lower court’s ruling that his writings—26 essays posted online between May 2002 and October 2003—constituted defamation against the government under Chinese or international law, according to Agence France-Presse.

Du’s Beijing-based lawyer, Mo Shaoping, was not present at his May 18 trial.

Du, who was released from prison after his trial but remains on probation without political rights, received an unusually light sentence for the charge of subversion, which often results in lengthy imprisonment.

“We are disappointed that the latest court ruling has not reversed the bogus charges against Du Daobin,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “International law and the Chinese Constitution protect criticism of the government, and Du was simply exercising that right.”

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 November 28, 2003.

More than 100 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 behind bars.

For background on Du’s case, please see the Committee to Protect Journalists’ May 18, 2004, news alert; June 11, 2004, news alert; and November 3, 2003, protest letter.