CPJ urges China to release Times researcher Zhao Yan

New York, March 24, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Chinese authorities to release New York Times researcher Zhao Yan now that the charge of revealing state secrets has been dropped against him. Zhao’s defense lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said prosecutors have not responded to two requests to release him after the charge was dropped on March 17, according to news reports.

CPJ rejects claims made on Thursday by Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang at a press briefing that, “Chinese judicial authorities are handling this case in accordance with law.” CPJ also calls on Qin to clarify his remarks about a timeframe for Zhao’s release. “From what I have learned,” Qin said when asked about a release date, “the actual situation is not like what you are talking about.”

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. The Times said Zhao had no involvement whatsoever in the story and that he provided them with no state secrets. Zhao was also indicted on a lesser charge of fraud, which is still under investigation.

“While we were initially pleased that the government had dropped its baseless charge against Zhao, his continued detention shows the government’s cavalier attitude toward due process and the rule of law,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “We call for his immediate release.”

With 32 journalists behind bars, China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists.