Zhang was arrested and charged with illegal publishing after producing and selling two underground newspapers in Chongqing, in central China. According to an account published on the Web site of the Chongqing Press and Publishing Administration, a provincial government body that governs all local publications, beginning in April 2001, Zhang edited two newspapers, Shishi Zixun (Current Events) and Redian Jiyao (Summary of the Main Points), which included articles and graphics he had downloaded from the Internet.
Two of Zhang’s business associates, Zuo Shangwen and Ou Yan, were also arrested on July 19, 2002, and indicted for their involvement with the publications. Zuo printed the publications in neighboring Sichuan Province while Ou managed the publications’ finances. At the time of their arrests, police confiscated 9,700 copies of Shishi Zixun.
The official account of their arrests stated that the two publications had “flooded” Chongqing’s publishing market. The government declared that “the political rumors, shocking ‘military reports,’ and other articles in these illegal publications misled the public, poisoned the youth, negatively influenced society and sparked public indignation.” Zhang, Zuo, and Ou printed more than 1.5 million copies of the publications and sold them in Chongqing, Chengdu, and other cities.
On December 25, 2002, the Yuzhong District Court in Chongqing sentenced Zhang to six years in prison and fined him 100,000 yuan (US$12,000), the amount that police said he had earned in profits from the publications. Zuo was sentenced to five years and fined 50,000 yuan (US$6,000), while Ou was sentenced to two years in prison.