Tao, an Internet essayist and pro-democracy activist, was arrested in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and charged with “incitement to subvert state power.” According to the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) Web site, which had published his work, Tao’s articles focused on political and legal reform. In one essay, titled “Strategies for China ‘s Social Reforms,” Tao wrote that “the Chinese Communist Party and democracy activists throughout society should unite to push forward China ‘s freedom and democratic development or else stand condemned through the ages.”
Previously, in 1999, Tao was sentenced to three years of re-education through labor” in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, according to the U.S.-based advocacy group Human Rights in China, because of his essays and his work on a book titled Xin Renlei Shexiang (Imaginings of a New Human Race). After his early release in 2001, Tao began writing articles and publishing them on various domestic and overseas Web sites.
In early January 2003, the Urumqi Intermediate Court sentenced Tao to seven years in prison. His appeal to the XUAR Higher Court later in 2003 was rejected. Now held in Changji, Tao was scheduled for release in July 2009. In a September 2008 letter, he told his family that he was suffering from a heart-related health problem.