China: Internet writer still in detention after nearly a month

New York, January 17, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about the well-being of dissident Internet writer Yang Tongyan (commonly known as Yang Tianshui), who was detained by plainclothes police in Nanjing late last month. Yang’s family has not been informed of any details of his case, including where he is being held or whether he has been formally arrested, according to CPJ sources. Yang has been denied access to a lawyer.

“We are extremely concerned about Yang Tianshui and urge authorities to provide information on his whereabouts and the reasons for his detention,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We condemn the jailing of any writer for expressing opinions, an act that is protected by international and Chinese law. We call for Yang’s immediate release.”

Police detained Yang and a friend at around 3:30 p.m. on December 23. While his friend was released after a few hours in the custody of Nanjing public security officers, Yang remained in police custody. The writer is now being held on suspicion of endangering national security. He has been denied access to a lawyer on the grounds that his case involves “state secrets,” according to CPJ sources. Yang’s arrest had not been widely publicized until now, those sources said, because advocates had hoped that a low profile might help secure his release.

Yang spent 10 years in prison on “counterrevolution” charges for condemning the government’s brutal military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square 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 defense lawyer, Guo Guoting, told CPJ. In January 2005 he was released on bail, which is very unusual in Chinese criminal cases involving political charges, Guo said.

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

China was the leading jailer of journalists in 2005 for the seventh consecutive year.Fifteen of the 32 imprisoned journalists were jailed for disseminating information online.