One journalist released, 42 still behind bars

New York, November 30, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the November 27 release of dissident journalist Liu Jingsheng, imprisoned since 1992 for “spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda.” But with 42 journalists still behind bars—including four imprisoned in 2004 alone—China remains the world’s leading jailer of journalists. CPJ called on the Chinese government to reverse its long record of repression.

“We are relieved to learn of the long-overdue release of Liu Jingsheng, who has been imprisoned for more than 12 years for the peaceful expression of his political views,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “But as long as China’s prisons operate a revolving door for journalists, there will be no progress in the rights of its people to report the news and to express dissent.

“We call on the Chinese government to stop imprisoning journalists, and to release the dozens of journalists who remain in jail for their work,” Cooper said.

Liu had been jailed since May 28, 1992. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being tried secretly in July 1994 on charges of “organizing and leading a counterrevolutionary group and spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda.”

Before he was imprisoned, he had been active in labor and pro-democracy groups, and had written articles supporting the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations. Prosecutors accused him of writing and printing political leaflets distributed during the third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. During the Democracy Wall movement in 1979, Liu co-edited the pro-democracy journal Tansuo (Explorations) with dissident Wei Jingsheng.

During one phase of his detention, Liu was shackled at the hands and feet for 104 days, according to the New York-based group Human Rights in China.

The Chinese Ministry of Justice has also decided to commute the life sentence of imprisoned journalist Wu Shishen and release him in July 2005, according to information received by The Dui Hua Foundation, an advocacy group that has obtained the release of political prisoners. Imprisoned since November 6, 1992 on charges of “providing state secrets to foreigners,” Wu was accused of leaking to a Hong Kong journalist the text of a speech to be delivered by Jiang Zemin at the 14th Communist Party Congress.

The release of Liu and the announcement of Wu’s imminent release come as China has agreed to resume human rights talks with the United States. China continues to imprison journalists, as it has done for years, under broadly defined laws on national security and subversion.

In a case strikingly similar to that of Wu Shishen, New York Times researcher Zhao Yan was arrested in September 2004 for suspicion of “providing state secrets to foreigners.” Before his arrest, Zhao told friends that authorities may have suspected him of leaking news of Jiang Zemin’s retirement prior to the official announcement on September 19.

Another journalist, Jiang Weiping, recipient of the 2001 CPJ International Press Freedom Award, remains in prison for the fourth year of a six-year sentence handed to him for reporting on official corruption in a Hong Kong publication. Like journalists Wu and Zhao, Jiang was convicted of “providing state secrets to foreigners” as well as “inciting subversion.”