Internet essayist Zhang Lin sentenced to five years in prison

New York, August 2, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the five-year prison sentence, followed by four years of deprivation of political rights, handed to freelance Internet journalist Zhang Lin on charges of inciting subversion.

Zhang Lin’s family and lawyer Mo Shaoping received notice this morning that the Intermediate People’s Court of Bengbu in central China’s Anhui Province ruled on July 28 that he is guilty of crimes related to articles he has posted on the Internet, and to a radio interview. Mo told CPJ that Zhang has already submitted a written appeal in advance of the 10-day deadline set by the court.

“Zhang Lin has done nothing more than peacefully express his opinions,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We are outraged at this unjust sentence, and we call on authorities to overturn it and release Zhang immediately and unconditionally.”

Zhang has written prolifically for overseas news Web sites that are blocked in China, including Boxun News and Epoch Times. The six articles cited in the May 23 indictment against him were harshly critical of Communist Party rule, calling it oppressive and illegitimate.

Zhang was detained on January 29 in Anhui Province while returning from Beijing, where he had traveled to mourn the death of ousted former Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang. Authorities held him for more than four months without access to a lawyer before his five-hour trial on June 21. Zhang’s family has not seen him since the trial, Mo told CPJ.

A well-known dissident, Zhang had spent eight years in prison and labor camp since 1989, according to Boxun News.

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.