Sat, Jun 12, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Dissident convicted of `subverting state power' in China

REUTERS , BEIJING

A court in central China handed a suspended jail sentence to prominent Internet dissident Du Daobin (杜導斌) yesterday, on charges of "subverting state power," the official Xinhua news agency said.

Du, 40, was detained by police in Wuhan Province last October for posting online essays in support of fellow dissident, Liu Di (劉荻), who has since been released from jail.

He pleaded guilty during the public trial and was given a light sentence, Xinhua said. The Intermediate People's Court in the city of Xiaogan, where the trial took place, declined to comment on the case.

"The court was told that Du, male, published his 26 articles on the Internet from May 2002 to October 2003, overtly instigating and subverting the state power by way of slander," Xinhua said.

Several dozen Chinese academics, reporters and scholars sent a letter to Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) last November protesting against Du's arrest, saying it was a violation of the right to free speech guaranteed by the Constitution.

China lumps political dissent, including any mention of the Tiananmen democracy protests or the Falun Gong spiritual movement, along with pornography as illegal content.

China has even set up a special Web site for Internet users to report "illegal" online content including pornography and political dissent in another bid to control the free-wheeling sector.

The site, net.china.cn, said it aimed to "protect the public interest" by fostering a better environment for China's youth. Internet users had already reported the presence of four Web sites offering "free movies and other services," it said.

"If those sites don't take action on their own, we will further expose their actions," it said in a posting.

It has been cracking down on such Internet fare for the last several years with limited success as China's ranks of Web surfers surge to the tens of millions.

The Internet has become a lifeline for millions of Chinese who want to access information beyond official sources, as well as a cash cow for aggressive private firms, many of which are listed in New York and Hong Kong.

Cai Mingzhao (蔡明照), vice director of the State Council's information office, was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency that China would have nearly 100 million Web users by the end of this year.

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