China: Guizhou reporter Li Yuanlong tried for inciting subversion

New York, May 12, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the trial of Li Yuanlong, a reporter for the daily Bijie Ribao, on charges of “inciting subversion of state authority” for articles he posted online. Li, who has not seen his family since his imprisonment in September 2005, appeared gaunt during Thursday’s five-hour trial, according to CPJ sources. A verdict is not expected for several weeks.

“Like many committed reporters in China, Li Yuanlong began posting his articles online after facing censorship at his newspaper,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “He is guilty of nothing more than expressing his criticism of official actions and should never have been brought to trial. We call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Li reported for Bijie Ribao on rural poverty and unemployment 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 CPJ 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, the Falun Gong-affiliated Dajiyuan (Epoch Times), ChinaEWeekly, and New Century Net. The articles that were named in the charge sheet were critical of government actions.

Li pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, and his lawyer rejected the notion that his criticism threatened state authority.

“He only criticized wrongdoings of some Communist Party officials or local governments,” the lawyer told Reuters. “The Communist Party and state power is not the same concept.”

Li’s trial was initially scheduled to begin just before President Hu Jintao visited the United States in April, but was postponed.