China: Dissident Internet writer formally arrested

New York. January 30, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the January 20 arrest of Internet writer Yang Tongyan (known by his pen name Yang Tianshui) on suspicion of “subversion of state authority.” Relatives received formal notice of the arrest from the Zhenjiang city public security bureau last week, according to CPJ sources.

Authorities have not specified the reasons for their accusation, but colleagues believe that he is being held in connection with online writings criticizing the government.

“Yang Tianshui seems to have been detained simply for expressing his opinion. His right to do that is protected by the Chinese constitution and international law,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Yang has been held without access to a lawyer or contact with his family since December 23, 2005, when plainclothes police officers in the eastern city of Nanjing detained him along with a friend, according to CPJ sources. Authorities later transferred Yang to custody in the city of Zhenjiang, and they released his associate. The jailed writer has been denied access to a lawyer on the grounds that the case involves “state secrets.”

Yang spent 10 years in prison on “counterrevolution” charges for condemning the government’s brutal military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in 1989. In late December 2004, police seized him from his home and held him for about a month on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state authority,” his former lawyer Guo Guoting told CPJ. He was released on bail in January 2005.

After his release last year, Yang continued to write for dissident news Web sites including Boxun News and Epoch Times. His writings were strongly critical of authoritarian rule in China, and he advocated for the release of imprisoned dissident writers Zhang Lin and Zheng Yichun.

Internet writers, many of them dissidents, have been a particular target of a media crackdown under the administration of President Hu Jintao. Of the 32 journalists in prison in December 2005, nearly half were jailed for disseminating news and opinions online.