Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 1 News List

China revives case against `New York Times' journalist

`STATE SECRETS' Beijing has laid new charges against researcher Zhao Yan, although his lawyer said that there was no legal basis for the move


Chinese prosecutors have issued a new indictment against jailed China-based New York Times researcher Zhao Yan (趙岩), two months after dropping charges of leaking state secrets, his lawyer said yesterday.

The news comes as an activist who set up an environmental group after studying village efforts to fight pollution went on trial yesterday charged with illegally obtaining state secrets.

"There has been a new indictment in Zhao Yan's case," lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) said.

Mo said he had not yet been informed whether authorities have laid new charges against his client, nor has he been informed about whether authorities have found new evidence.

"This is very regrettable," Mo said. "This is quite wrong ... there is no legal basis for doing that at all."

He said the prosecutors had used a term of "resuming criminal investigation and prosecution" to describe the move, but it had no legal basis.

"Even they admitted they could not find an article of law to cite for the re-transfer of the case," Mo said.

Zhao had been expected to be released within days after the Intermediate Court agreed to a request by the prosecution to withdraw the case on March 17, but he remains in custody.

"It is definitely a prolonged and illegal detention now," Mo said.

Zhao's disappearance into police custody in September 2004 caused a diplomatic storm between Washington and Beijing.

He was formally charged on Oct. 20, 2004, with "divulging state secrets," a charge that carries the maximum penalty of death, although the Chinese authorities have never said explicitly what Zhao's alleged crime was.

The researcher was detained days after the New York Times reported that former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) would resign from his top military post at a secretive high-level meeting of the Communist Party.

At the time of the report, Jiang's plan to retire was a closely guarded secret.

Meanwhile, the environmentalist involved in a mass protest against chemical pollution went on trial yesterday facing charges of illegally obtaining state secrets, his lawyer said.

The case of Tan Kai (譚凱), of the banned "Green Watch" environmental group, was heard at the Xihu District Court in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, lawyer Li Heping (李和平) said.

"He pleaded innocent," Li said. "We said that the whole hearing was illegal because the court refused to reveal the evidence of any crime."

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