China: Writer Li Jianping tried for online pro-democracy articles

New York, April 12, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by the prosecution of Internet writer Li Jianping on charges of “inciting subversion” for articles criticizing Communist Party leaders and Chinese government actions. Li was tried today in a proceeding that lasted less than three hours, according to Agence France-Presse.

“How can China, one of the world’s most powerful nations, continue to regard one citizen’s criticism as a threat to the authority of the state?” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Li Jianping should be released immediately and unconditionally in accordance with the Chinese constitution and international law.”

Zibo City Intermediate Court in northeast China’s Shandong Province is expected to deliver a verdict within 15 days, Li’s lawyer Zhang Xingshui told AFP.

Li was detained by police in Zibo City on May 27, 2005 on suspicion of defamation for articles criticizing party and government leaders, according to court documents. The charge was later upgraded to “inciting subversion of state authority,” which usually results in a prison term of several years. Prosecutors cited 31 articles that Li had written for ChinaEWeekly, Democracy Forum, Epoch Times and other overseas Web sites that are banned in China.

Li told the court today that posting his essays online did not constitute a crime, and his lawyer argued that his actions were protected by the Chinese Constitution, according to AFP.

In February, Liu Zhengrong, deputy chief of the Internet Affairs Bureau of the State Council, told reporters that no one was jailed in China for expressing their views online. CPJ research shows that Li was among at least 15 journalists jailed for their online writings at the end of 2005.