Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Activist journalist goes on trial for dengue dispatches

PRETEXT?A former newspaper editor was charged with making up reports, but his lawyer said he was targeted for his anti-corruption work

AP , SHANGHAI

A journalist who backed an imprisoned anti-corruption crusader has gone on trial in eastern China in what his lawyer yesterday called a possible attempt to punish him for his activism.

Former newspaper editor Li Changqing (李長青) is charged with "deliberately fabricating and spreading false and alarmist information" over reports of dengue fever outbreaks that appeared on an overseas news Web site.

However, lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) said those charges were brought only after prosecutors failed to make stick subversion accusations. The earlier charges were brought as part of an investigation of Huang Jingao (黃金高), a career bureaucrat who gained national notoriety for publicizing his graft-busting efforts in an open letter to the Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper.

Huang was sentenced in November to life in prison on bribery and embezzlement charges that supporters said were trumped up by officials fearing exposure.

"On the surface, there is no relationship between these two different cases. But it is really hard to say," Mo told reporters.

No verdict has been announced following Thursday's hearing at the Gulou District Court in the eastern city of Fuzhou, Mo said.

Li has been in detention since February last year. If found guilty, he will likely receive a sentence of less than five years, Mo said.

Li had been deputy news director of the Fuzhou Daily, a newspaper in Fujian Province where Huang was a county party secretary.

Authorities believed that Li actually authored Huang's letter to the People's Daily, in which Huang described having to wear a bulletproof vest after receiving death threats, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

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