Police re-arrest Internet writer who was on probation

New York, July 22, 2008–Chinese police arrested prominent dissident and Internet writer Du Daobin on Monday, according to his defense lawyer, Mo Shaoping. CPJ is concerned that the arrest is part of the government’s ongoing campaign to suppress criticism prior to the Olympic Games. Du had been sentenced to a three-year suspended prison sentence in 2004 on subversion charges, and his arrest comes just 12 days before his probationary period was set to expire.

Mo said public security officials arrested Du at his workplace in the city of Yingcheng, Hubei province, on Monday. He was not aware of the existence of supporting documents from the court, which are necessary to authorize the public security bureau to re-arrest someone serving a suspended sentence. 

“IndependSent voices in China are being stifled even with the Olympic Games only weeks away,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator. “This is not the press freedom China promised the world when the Games were awarded to Beijing in 2001. We call on the authorities to release Du Daobin immediately.”

On June 11, 2004, a court sentenced Du to a suspended prison sentence for inciting subversion of state power based on commentaries about official policies published on Chinese and overseas Web sites. One article argued that government control of the media is unconstitutional. When he was sentenced, his remaining prison time was suspended in exchange for a four-year probationary period with conditions restricting his movements, followed by a two-year suspension of his political rights.   

In Monday’s arrest, police accused Du of violating conditions of his release and continuing to write online articles, according to news reports. The probationary conditions included reporting monthly to authorities and seeking permission to travel. Police also confiscated two computers and documents from his home, the reports say. CPJ spoke briefly with a member of Du’s family who declined to be identified because the person said they had been warned not to answer the phone.

Du’s probationary period should have expired in June this year. But after a second court upheld the verdict on appeal on August 4, 2004, authorities revised the start date of the four-year probationary period to begin that day, effectively extending his probation by two months, according to Zhang Yu at the International Chinese PEN Center. The reason for this revision was not clear, Zhang said. By this count, Du would have reached the four-year mark on August 3.

Although Du kept a low profile, he continued to profess his innocence and petition local and national authorities to overturn the verdict, Zhang told CPJ by telephone today. Police questioned Du several times after his appeal, even though Du had considerably toned down anti-government sentiment for fear of re-arrest, Zhang said.