China: CPJ condemns two-year prison sentence of journalist Li Yuanlong

New York, July 13, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the two-year prison sentence handed today to Bijie Ribao newspaper reporter Li Yuanlong for articles he wrote for overseas Web sites. Li was convicted of “inciting subversion of state authority” in a court in southern China’s Guizhou province, according to international news reports.

“The imprisonment of Li Yuanlong is a shameful reminder of the constraints on China’s journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Li performed a service by writing about problems faced by the impoverished residents of his home province. He should be released.”

Li was detained in September 2005 and was not seen by his family until a five-hour trial in the city of Bijie in May, according to CPJ sources in China. He was convicted and sentenced today by Bijie Intermediate People’s Court, according to news agency reports.

“He was very angry. He couldn’t accept the verdict and said he would appeal,” his wife told Agence France-Presse. “He has not done anything to endanger the country.”

Li reported for the daily Bijie Ribao on rural poverty and unemployment in Guizhou Province and had frequently been censored in recent years because of complaints by local officials who were embarrassed by his reports, CPJ sources have said.

The charge of “inciting subversion” was related to his online work. Under the pen name Ye Lang (Night Wolf), Li contributed articles to overseas Chinese-language news Web sites that are blocked inside China by the government’s Internet filtering system. Li criticized ruling party policies in U.S.-based Web sites Boxun News, Dajiyuan (Epoch Times), ChinaEWeekly and New Century Net.

China is the world’s leading jailer of journalists, with more than 30 behind bars for their work, according to CPJ research. Half of them are imprisoned for their online work, despite Chinese officials’ public assertions that no one is jailed for expressing opinions on the Internet.