Journalist imprisoned

New York, December 8, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged that Chinese authorities have detained journalist Shi Tao, putting the total number jailed in the country at 42. On November 24, freelance journalist Shi was taken into custody because of his writings criticizing Chinese policy.

Police from the security bureau of Changsha, Hunan Province, detained Shi near his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province. In the days following his arrest, authorities confiscated the journalist’s computer and other documents and warned his family to keep quiet about the matter, according to a statement posted online by Shi’s brother, Shi Hua.

Shi’s family was notified that the journalist was held being in Changsha under suspicion of “leaking state secrets,” an extremely serious charge punishable by lengthy imprisonment or death. The charge also makes it very difficult for a defense lawyer to meet with Shi because of the secrecy with which the government treats this type of case. Authorities did not tell his family exactly what brought about the charge.

Until May, Shi was a journalist for the daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Trade News), which is based in Changsha. Shi has also written essays for overseas Internet forums, including Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum). In an essay he posted in April titled “The Most Disgusting Day,” Shi criticized the Chinese government for the March 28 detention of Ding Zilin, an activist for the Tiananmen Mothers group whose 17-year-old son was killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

According to CPJ research, China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists.