Skip to content Skip to navigation

China muzzles citizens: Cyberspace prisoner on trial

December 3, 1998

Human Rights in China (HRIC) strongly condemns China's decision to prosecute Lin Hai, a computer company owner who allegedly provided addresses of Chinese Internet users to the U.S.-based on-line magazine Dacankao. HRIC believes the prosecution of Lin Hai to be a blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression. HRIC urges the Chinese government to annul the trial, scheduled to open on Friday December 4, 1998, and demands that Lin Hai be released. HRIC has requested the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to send an urgent appeal to the Chinese government and urges the international community to stand up on Lin Hai's behalf.

Lin Hai, a 30-year-old computer company owner in Shanghai, was detained on March 25, 1998, for allegedly providing some 30,000 addresses of Chinese Internet users to an on-line magazine called VIP Reference (Dacankao). VIP Reference, which is operated from the United States, compiles articles from Chinese-language newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan about subjects deemed politically sensitive in the mainland and thus absent from the domestic news media. The compilations are sent out by e-mail and posted on the VIP Reference website (

The day after Lin's detention, his wife Xu Hong was presented with a warrant stating that Lin had been detained for "disturbing social order." The lawyer she hired was informed that Lin's case was being handled by the political division of Shanghai's Public Security Bureau (PSB), an indication that it was not considered to be a normal criminal case. Lin's lawyer was denied permission to meet with his client for seven days, and thereafter notified that he was taken off the case and that the PSB had appointed another lawyer.

On April 30, Lin Hai was formally charged with "incitement to subvert the government" under Article 105 of the Criminal Code. The offices of his Zhengfang Software Company were then thoroughly searched. In June the case was forwarded to the Shanghai procuratorate, which added other charges under Article 106 on "colluding" with foreign forces, as well as accusations of tax evasion. However, on September 1, the procuratorate sent Lin's case back to the PSB citing lack of sufficient evidence.

Lin Hai's trial is due to open on Friday December 4, 1998, in Shanghai. Because of the "State secrets" allegedly involved, it will be held behind closed doors. Lin Hai's wife has been denied all visits since his initial detention.

"We believe that Lin Hai's detention is arbitrary and ask the Chinese government to release him immediately and unconditionally. We are also outraged by the recent wave of repression highlighted by the detentions of Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai and Qin Yongmin, who have been attempting to set up an independent political party. These are a clear illustration that Beijing is taking no step whatsoever in respecting fundamental human rights: China's signing of the ICCPR two months ago was but an empty gesture," said Xiao Qiang, HRIC's Executive Director.