Journalist tried on ‘subversion’ charges

New York, January 22, 2008–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the one-day closed-door trial of imprisoned journalist Lü Gengsong that took place today in Hangzhou, southeast China, and calls on the Chinese government to release him and all journalists held under vague “national security” laws before the 2008 Olympics.

Lü’s wife Wang Xue’e told CPJ that Beijing-based lawyers Mo Shaoping and Ding Xikui defended Lü against the charges of “inciting subversion of state authority” today during his three-hour trial, which only his family and two close friends were allowed to attend. Lü’s sentence is expected to be announced within a month, Wang said. His lawyers could not be reached for comment.

The freelance journalist has been held in a detention center and denied family visits since his arrest on August 24, 2007, Wang said. Lü, who is also a political activist, had written several articles for overseas Web sites and reported on the trial of a human rights defender the day before he was arrested. Spectators excluded from the court gathered outside to follow the proceedings, Wang said.

“When China wants to silence journalists, it often resorts to vague national security charges against journalists even when there is little or no evidence to convict them,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the Chinese authorities to reject the case against Lü Gengsong and release him immediately, along with the many other journalists jailed on the pretext of inciting subversion.”

Article 19 of the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights allows that freedom of expression be restricted for the protection of national security, but only in cases that are necessary and demonstrably “provided by law.” China signed the covenant two months before announcing its Olympic bid in 2001.

The majority of the 29 journalists imprisoned in China were jailed on charges that relate to national security, including subversion of state power, leaking state secrets, and espionage, according to CPJ research. Most of these cases were brought against writers who publish online, where content is harder to censor than in conventional media.