China: CPJ calls for release of journalist Li Yuanlong

New York, February 27, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists called on China today to release Li Yuanlong, a reporter with the daily Bijie Ribao, who was charged with “inciting subversion of state authority” for articles he posted online. Li was charged on February 9 but news of the indictment has only recently emerged.

“Chinese authorities recently asserted that no one has been jailed for writing their views online,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “But Li Yuanlong is in prison for doing just that. We call on authorities to release him in accordance with their own publicly stated policies, the Chinese constitution and international law.”

Li was detained September 9, 2005. CPJ sources in China said his family has been barred from visiting him but a local lawyer has seen him twice since his imprisonment.

Li reported for Bijie Ribao on rural poverty in his native Guizhou Province and had frequently been censored in recent years because of complaints by local officials embarrassed by his reports, according to the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China and online news sources.

The charge of “inciting subversion” was related to his online work. The prosecution cited recent articles he had written under the pen name Ye Lang (Night Wolf) for U.S.-based Chinese language Web sites that are banned in China, including Boxun News, Dajiyuan (Epoch Times), ChinaEWeekly and New Century Net. The articles that were named in the charge sheet, including “In my mind, I’m becoming an American” and “Common birth, tragic death,” were critical of Chinese government policies.

Liu Zhengrong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council, told reporters in a press conference on February 14 that no writers were jailed in China simply for expressing their views online. According to CPJ research, at least 15 of the 32 journalists jailed in December 2005 were imprisoned for disseminating news and opinions on the Internet.