Zhang, a student at the University of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang Province, was charged on November 8, 1999, with “disseminating reactionary documents via the Internet,” according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
Zhang had allegedly distributed news and information about the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong. He was arrested sometime in October 1999 as part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the sect.
Using the Internet, Zhang reportedly transmitted news of the crackdown to Falun Gong members in the United States and Canada and also received reports from abroad, which he then circulated among practitioners in China. Before Zhang’s arrest, Chinese authorities had increased Internet surveillance in their efforts to crush Falun Gong.