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Internet essays bring subversion charge

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A mainland journalist has been charged with inciting subversion for posting politically sensitive essays on the Internet, his wife said.

Li Yuanlong, a journalist with the Bijie Daily newspaper in southwestern Guizhou province, was charged with "inciting subversion of state sovereignty" by the district court this month, Yang Xiumin said Monday.

State security agents picked him up at his office on September 9 and he has been in detention since, his wife said, adding that she and their 17-year-old son have not been allowed to visit him.

Yang said she believes Li ran afoul of authorities for posting essays on overseas Web sites banned in China, including one piece entitled: On Becoming an American in Spirit.

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Li is also well-known for reporting on the plight of marginalized farmers and laid-off workers, according to the New York-based Human Rights in China.

Yang insisted her husband has done nothing to incite subversion.

"I don't believe he was intending to subvert state power. He was just expressing his personal opinion," she said. "He is a journalist. He loves his work and he is concerned about the society and the well-being of ordinary people."

The maximum penalty for subversion is 15 years in jail, according to Mo Shaoping, a rights lawyer who has represented other journalists and dissidents.

Human and media rights groups say China's leaders are tightening their control on the Internet and traditional press amid increasing social unrest.

Outspoken media organizations have been silenced one after another over the past year, with a wide range of publications and Web sites closed, and journalists sacked or jailed.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says China is the leading jailer of journalists in the world, with 32 reporters imprisoned as the end of the year.

Reporters Without Borders ranks China 159th on a list of 167 countries in its global press freedom index.

It also labels China one of 15 nations that are "enemies of the Internet," along with Burma, Iran and Syria.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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