Sun, Oct 22, 2006 - Page 4 News List

PRC frees writer

AP , BEIJING

A Chinese court has freed a journalist convicted of extortion after exposing local corruption but has refused to overturn his guilty verdict, his wife said yesterday.

The Intermediate People's Court in Shaoyang City ordered Yang Xiaoqing (陽小青) released on bail last month after he had served seven months of a one-year sentence, said his wife, Gong Jie (龔傑).

Last Tuesday, the court ruled that he was exempt from serving the remainder of his sentence but would not overturn the lower court's conviction, Gong said.

Yang, a reporter for a local newspaper, wrote articles for the Hong Kong Commerce Daily detailing alleged corruption in the privatization of a state-owned company in Longhui County.

His case drew attention from ordinary Chinese, who saw Yang as a hero for battling official corruption, and from media rights groups who saw him as a victim of government suppression.

Yang's case is typical of the harassment aggressive reporters face from a government that does not recognize press freedom and has jailed dozens of journalists and Internet essayists.

Detained in January, Yang was convicted in June after authorities accused him of concocting the news reports to extort 800,000 yuan (US$100,000).

At his trial in Longhui in June, hundreds of onlookers swarmed the outside of the courthouse and blocked police cars to protest the sentence.

In releasing the decision last Tuesday, the Shaoyang court told Yang that local officials did not want the guilty verdict overturned because he might then sue the government, Gong said.

"If the court ruled that you are guilty but exempted you from punishment, you would not be able to sue the court or ask for compensation from the local government," Gong said, reciting the explanation given by the chief judge.

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