Imprisoned journalist Shi Tao’s family files for review of appeal

New York, August 25, 2005—The mother of a journalist serving a 10-year prison sentence on charges of “illegally leaking state secrets abroad” is seeking a review of her son’s court appeal. Gao Qinsheng, mother of imprisoned journalist Shi Tao, has alleged “serious procedural defects” in the proceeding, the human rights group Human Rights in China (HRIC) reported.

Gao filed a request for review with the Hunan Province High People’s Court on Sunday, sources confirmed to CPJ. Shi’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, filed a brief in support of the request.

Officials from the Changsha security bureau detained Shi near his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, on November 24, 2004, several months after he e-mailed notes detailing the propaganda ministry’s instructions to the media about coverage of the anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Authorities confiscated his computer and other documents and warned his family to stay quiet about the matter.

On December 14, authorities issued a formal arrest order, charging Shi with “leaking state secrets.” On April 27, 2005, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court found Shi guilty and sentenced him to a 10-year prison term.

On June 2, the Hunan Province High People’s Court rejected Shi’s appeal without giving the journalist a hearing. Mo’s brief argues that the court did not hear arguments in Shi’s defense, nor did it respond, as required by law, to the evidence that was presented. The appeal hearing was not open to the public, which is in violation of the criminal procedure law, the brief said.

“Shi Tao is being unjustly punished by a government that routinely jails journalists,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “His appeal was rejected without the due process accorded to Chinese citizens. His trial and appeal should be thoroughly reviewed by the court. He is entitled to a fair treatment under the law.”

The Chinese government does not tolerate direct criticism of the central government in the mainstream print and broadcast media, and it frequently targets the most strident critics with harassment and imprisonment. China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists; 42 writers and editors were behind bars at the end of 2004, according to CPJ research.