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Appeal Documents Expose Injustice in Shi Tao Case

May 19, 2005

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has received copies of appeal documents written by dissident writer Shi Tao, who on April 30 was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of “illegally revealing state secrets abroad.” The documents, including an appeal petition dated May 4 and a defense statement dated May 9, provide previously undisclosed details regarding Shi Tao’s case, which was tried in a closed hearing in March. The documents are appended to the Chinese version of this press release.

A freelance writer and former reporter at the daily Dangdai Shangbao (Contemporary Business News), Shi Tao was detained on November 23, 2004, in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, after providing an overseas Web site with a summary of an official document alerting journalists to possible social instability around the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. In his appeal documents, Shi Tao says that around noon on November 23, he was suddenly accosted in the street near his home by people who placed a hood over his head and unlawfully transported him to Changsha, Hunan Province, thousands of miles away. The appeal documents also state that, without producing any legal warrants, police from both Shanxi and Hunan searched Shi Tao’s Taiyuan home and seized his journals and other documents. Shi Tao argues in the appeal that these unlawfully obtained materials and his unlawfully obtained statement were produced as the main evidence against him in his trial, and as China’s Criminal Law designates illegally obtained evidence as inadmissible, his conviction constitutes a miscarriage of justice.

Shi Tao also argues that the nature of the unlawfully obtained testimony and evidence was misrepresented in court. The State Secrets Bureau and the Changsha Municipal Intermediate People’s Court stated that Shi Tao’s crime was transmitting crucial contents of a central government document to the overseas Web site Democracy Newsletter (Minzhu Tongxun). In his appeal, Shi Tao contends that his notes recorded a newspaper executive’s description to journalists of guidelines issued by the provincial propaganda department regarding efforts to maintain social stability. Among the guidelines were observations regarding the possibility of overseas democracy activists finding a way to reenter China to carry out memorial activities for the 15th anniversary of June 4th. Shi Tao argues that the information he provided to Democracy Newsletter related to public sentiment, which cannot be construed as a state secret. The appeal documents state that designating this material as a state secret violates Article 8 of the State Secrets Law, and constitutes manufactured evidence. The appeal urges that Shi Tao’s conviction be overturned on these grounds, and describes his prosecution as an act of revenge against independent intellectuals.

“Shi Tao’s case has raised widespread concern inside and outside of China as a classic example of the Hu Jintao regime’s relentless suppression of free speech and free press,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “The additional information provided in Shi Tao’s appeal documents only highlights the gross injustice of this case. We hope that the international community will make use of this information to bring more pressure to bear on the Chinese government to overturn Shi Tao’s conviction and release him and all other dissidents currently detained or imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their views.”