Human Rights in China (HRIC) congratulates imprisoned Chinese journalist Shi Tao and his family on his receiving the 2007 Golden Pen of Freedom on June 4 at the opening ceremony of the World Newspaper Congress (WNC) and World Editors Forum (WEF).
These annual meetings of the international press, held this year in Cape Town, South Africa, drew more than 1,600 international newspaper executives and editors. The Golden Pen of Freedom, established in 1961 and awarded by the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers, is an annual award recognizing individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the defense and promotion of press freedom.
The presentation of this year's award on the 18th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown is particularly appropriate, given that Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison for circulating information about official security preparations for the 15th anniversary of June 4 in 2004.
Shi Tao's mother, Gao Qinsheng, accepted the award on her son's behalf, thanking everyone for not forgetting Shi Tao, and stating that her son had "only done what a courageous journalist should do." HRIC welcomes Gao's success in traveling to South Africa to accept the award and congratulates her on delivering a powerful message to the international community.
WNC and WEF will be launching an advocacy campaign to win the release of Shi Tao and ensure that cases of imprisoned Chinese journalists continue receiving exposure by international media and sports organizations (for more information, see http://www.wan-press.org/print.php3?id_article=14366).
HRIC supports the efforts of WNC and WEF to raise awareness about press freedom in China, especially in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "Since Shi Tao's arrest, China has relaxed rules for foreign journalists covering the Olympics, but continues to jail domestic journalists in violation of international law," said Sharon Hom, HRIC's Executive Director. "The Olympics provides an opportunity for the Chinese government to demonstrate its commitment to press freedom in China."
Background on Shi Tao:
Shi Tao, 37, 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. In an essay posted in April 2004 entitled, "The Most Disgusting Day," Shi criticized the PRC government for the March 28 detention of Ding Zilin, an activist for the Tiananmen Mothers whose 17-year-old son was killed during the June 4 crackdown of the 1989 democracy movement.
On April 20, 2004, Shi attended a staff meeting at the Contemporary Business News where the contents of a Chinese Communist Party (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 tried for "illegally providing state secrets overseas" under Article 111 of the People's Republic of China (PRC) Criminal Law on April 27, 2005. He was sentenced on the same day of his trial to 10 years' imprisonment. His appeal was denied on June 2, 2005.