Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the Chinese government has continued its crackdown on free expression on the Internet with the arrest of Internet activist Li Zhi.
According to sources in China, on September 3 Sichuan Province State Security Police formally arrested Li Zhi on charges of “conspiracy to subvert state power.” Li was initially detained on August 8 along with his wife, who was released the same day and allowed to return home. Li’s home was searched, and his computer and other property were seized.
Li Zhi, 32, is a graduate of the Xinan Institute of Finance, and prior to his arrest was a finance official in the Dazhou municipal government. Sources say Li Zhi frequently expressed his views in Internet bulletin boards and chatrooms. According to one source, police told Li’s wife that he was found to have communicated with overseas dissidents through Internet chatrooms.
Under the present charge of subversion Li could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
The arrest comes at a time when the United States government has criticized China for its lack of progress on human rights, making particular mention of arrests of Internet activists. On September 22 Secretary of State Colin Powell urged Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing to make Beijing act on promises it made at U.S.-China human rights talks at the end of last year.
HRIC deplores the suppression and persecution of people seeking to peacefully express their views over the Internet. HRIC president Liu Qing says, “Monitoring e-mail and Internet chatrooms is an unacceptable invasion of privacy, and a reprehensible method of gathering evidence for prosecution of a political crime. Given the U.S. government’s recent statements on China’s human rights record, we hope the government will take particular note of this case and press for the immediate release of Li Zhi.”
Human Rights in China is an international monitoring and advocacy non-governmental organization based in New York and Hong Kong. Founded in March 1989 by Chinese scientists and scholars, it conducts research, education and outreach programs to promote universally recognized human rights and advance the institutional protection of these rights in the People’s Republic of China.