CPJ condemns two-year sentence of online journalist Li Jianping

New York, October 26, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the two-year prison sentence given to Internet writer Li Jianping on Wednesday, more than six months after he was tried on charges of “inciting subversion of state authority.” Li, who was initially accused of defaming national leaders through his writings, plans to appeal the verdict, his wife, Xu Hui, told CPJ.

“Li Jianping has already been jailed for too long on the gossamer reasoning that his online criticism of national leaders constitutes a threat to the state,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “It seems that as long as the country’s print and broadcast media are prevented from performing their function as a watchdog of the national government, independent writers will continue to be at risk of jail when they turn to banned Web sites as an outlet.”

In a proceeding attended by Xu, Zibo Intermediate People’s Court found Li guilty and sentenced him to jail plus two years of deprivation of political rights. Li, 40, a writer and businessman, was detained by police in Zibo, in northeast China’s Shandong province, in May 2005. Initially held on suspicion of defamation for articles critical of former president Jiang Zemin and current President Hu Jintao, he was tried on more serious subversion charges in April. Before going forward with the case, state prosecutors sent it back to police twice on the grounds of insufficient evidence, according to the U.S.-based advocacy group Human Rights in China.

In his trial, prosecutors cited 31 articles from banned U.S.-based Chinese-language Web sites Yi Bao (ChinaEWeekly), Dajiyuan (Epoch Times) and Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum). The verdict cited 18 of those articles, but Xu said it was not clear that her husband even wrote all of the stories.

Administrative control over the media in China ensures that criticism of national leaders or the Chinese Communist Party remains off-limits in print, broadcast and online news outlets. This month, a CPJ special report described how Internet writers—whose work often appears on U.S. Web sites—are being jailed in ever-greater numbers. Read the report.