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Urgent Detention Cases Submitted to President Bush

April 12, 2006

HRIC submitted the following list of urgent detention cases in China with an open letter to U.S. President Bush in advance of his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in April 2006.


Li Zhi, Internet essayist

Li Zhi (b. 1970), a graduate of the Xinan Institute of Finance and an Internet essayist, was a finance official in the Dazhou municipal government prior to his arrest.

Li, who reportedly frequently expressed his political views in Internet chatrooms, was detained on August 8, 2003 and arrested in September that year by the Sichuan Province State Security Police on charges of "conspiracy to subvert state power." Following his conviction on December 10, 2003, Li Zhi's February 2004 appellate ruling upheld an eight year imprisonment sentence on charges stemming from his application for membership in the China Democracy Party, his subsequent activities as a member, and from his creation of a personal Web site publishing and posting essays describing "the struggle for Chinese democracy and freedom."

The case against Li was built upon witness testimony and Li Zhi's online activities, including the content of numerous e-mails sent to and from his e-mail accounts. Among the evidence used to convict Li Zhi was witness testimony stating that he had inquired about methods of circumventing Internet censorship in order to access overseas Web sites. The appellate ruling stated that Yahoo! Holdings (HK) Ltd. provided evidence during the trial connecting Li Zhi to his yahoo.com.cn e-mail address.

HRIC is monitoring Li Zhi's case, and issued press releases on its progress.

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Shi Tao, journalist

Shi Tao (b. 1968), was a journalist and head of the news division at the Dangdai Shangbao (Contemporary Business News) in Changsha, Hunan province, prior to his arrest.

Shi, originally from Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, had also written essays for overseas Internet forums, some of which were critical of the PRC government. On April 20, 2004, Shi attended a staff meeting at the Contemporary Business News office where the contents of a CCP Central Propaganda Bureau document about security concerns and preparation for the upcoming 15th anniversary of the June 4th crackdown were discussed. That evening, from his office, Shi used his personal Yahoo! e-mail account to send his notes about this meeting to the New York-based Web site Democracy Forum.

Shi was detained on November 24, 2004 and was subsequently tried for "illegally providing state secrets overseas" under Article 111 of the PRC Criminal Law. He was sentenced on the same day of his trial to 10 years imprisonment. His appeal was denied on June 2, 2005. His court judgment cited Yahoo! (HK) Holdings Ltd. for providing the information linking Shi Tao to his email account.

HRIC submitted Shi's case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in September 2005. The case is pending final decision.

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Zhao Yan, former researcher for the New York Times

Zhao Yan (b. 1962), a researcher at the Beijing Bureau of the New York Times (NYT) and former editor of China Reform magazine, was detained on September 17, 2004 and arrested on October 20, 2004.

He is purported to have disclosed information regarding Jiang Zemin's resignation to the NYT; however, NYT editor Susan Chira stated that Zhao, as a researcher rather than a reporter, was not the source of the information. He is also alleged to have investigated and published articles to assist farmers in the preservation of their rights. Police harassed Zhao repeatedly in 2004, and he was forced out of his position at China Reform. He was hired by the NYT in May 2004. Charged under suspicion of "illegally divulging state secrets to foreigners," Zhao is being held at the detention center of Beijing's National Security Bureau with limited access to his lawyer, Mo Shaoping.

Zhao had been subject to interrogation and intimidation by authorities in Fujian and Hebei provinces on at least two occasions as a result of his writings. In spite of international concern, the Chinese government has labeled this case a domestic issue with which "outside forces should not interfere." Despite reports from Zhao's lawyer in March that charges against Zhao were being withdrawn and his release was imminent, Zhao remains in detention without trial.

HRIC submitted Zhao Yan's case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in November 2004. The Working Group considered his case to be arbitrary under international law.

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