Li, deputy news director of Fuzhou Ribao (Fuzhou Daily), was arrested in southern China’s Fujian province in connection with an investigation of whistleblower Huang Jingao, a Communist Party official in Fujian province who wrote an open letter to the state-run People’s Daily in 2004 denouncing corruption among local officials.
Huang won public support after describing death threats that he said forced him to wear a bulletproof vest. But in November 2005 he was convicted of accepting bribes and was sentenced to life in prison. Supporters said that the charges against Huang were politically motivated.
Li was initially accused of inciting subversion. He told his lawyer that he was tortured in detention and interrogated repeatedly about his defense of Huang in newspaper and online articles.
The unexplained subversion charge was later dropped and authorities filed a charge of “deliberately fabricating and spreading alarmist information.” The new charge was related to an October 13, 2004, report in the U.S.-based Chinese-language Web site Boxun News reporting an outbreak of dengue fever, a viral mosquito-borne disease, in Fuzhou.
The author, identified by his lawyer as Li, anonymously reported more than 20 cases, according to Boxun News. In seeking to confirm the information, the Web site did its own research and updated the story to reflect 100 cases.
Li was tried in Fuzhou on January 19, 2006. Five days later, Gulou district court convicted Li and sentenced him to three years in prison. His appeal was rejected.
On November 20, the World Association of Newspapers awarded Li its Golden Pen of Freedom Award.