China: CPJ hails dropping of charges against NY Times researcher

New York, March 17, 2006— The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes China’s decision today to drop charges of revealing state secrets against jailed New York Times researcher Zhao Yan. The decision by the prosecutor’s office was announced by Zhao’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, in Beijing.

Zhao was detained in September 2004 after The New York Times printed an article correctly predicting the retirement of former president Jiang Zemin from his post on the Central Military Commission. Zhao’s New York Times colleagues denied that he provided them with state secrets. Zhao was also indicted on a lesser charge of fraud.

The fraud charge will continue to be investigated. It was not clear whether Zhao would be released. The announcement comes one month before Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the United States.

“We are pleased that the government has dropped its baseless charge against Zhao and now urge the prosecutor to drop the fraud charges and release him,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “The timing of the decision ahead of President Hu’s visit to the United States demonstrates that the justice system is subservient to political considerations, and for this reason we hold Chinese authorities directly responsible for all of the 32 journalists currently jailed for their work,” Cooper said.