China yesterday published a white paper on the Internet, repeating the need for online censorship in the name of “respect for local laws” and “maintaining stability”, while several netizens now in prison or recently released are in a critical state of health.
The release of the policy document on the Internet, published by the information bureau of the Chinese Council of State, also coincides with the news that blogger Tan Zuoren has just had his jail sentence upheld on appeal.
“This white paper should have been the occasion for the Chinese authorities to rethink their current policy towards the Web”, Reporters Without Borders said. “But instead it simply adds to the usual rhetoric of the leadership in Beijing. It is no surprise, when you look at the growing repression of online news in the last few months.”
“While the desire expressed to further develop the Chinese people’s access to the Internet is commendable, it is regrettable that this does not mean access to World Wide Web, but to the Chinese Web, complete with its sophisticated filtering system that blocks political, social or other news that the authorities deem undesirable”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“We urge the international community to bring this problem of net censorship before the World Trade Organisation, since it constitutes an obstacle to financial exchanges”.
Net censorship has immediate human consequences. China remains the world’s largest prison for journalists, bloggers and Internet-users. More than one hundred are still being held, some of them suffering serious health problems.
Reporters Without Borders also calls for the immediate release on humanitarian grounds of human rights activist Hu Jia and online journalist Yang Tianshui. Hu is seriously ill. He has recently been hospitalised and his family fear that he has liver cancer. Yang has tuberculosis and is suffering from severe arthritis, chronic kidney failure and high blood pressure. Both their lives are in danger.
The organisation is dismayed at the plight of cyber-dissident Zhang Jianhong, better known under the pseudonym Li Hong, who has just been freed from jail but in an appalling state of health. He is suffering from very advanced muscular dystrophy, since for months he did not receive the treatment needed to slow the progression of the illness. He is now in intensive care and on a ventilator.
He was arrested in 2006 for writing an article headlined “Olympicgate” and was jailed for six years in 2007 for “inciting subversion” and finally released on 5 June 2010. His wife, Dong Min, said he has since been treated at the number 2 hospital in Ningbo, his home town, but the cost of his medication is exorbitant, at 2,500-3,000 yuans a day (366 to 440 US dollars). Reporters Without Borders considers the Chinese authorities to be directly responsible for the worsening health of Zhang Jianhong and urges them to foot his entire medical bill.
Elsewhere, the Sichuan provincial appeal court today upheld the five-year prison sentence handed down in the lower court against blogger and environmental campaigner Tan Zuoren for “inciting subversion of state power” and to three years deprivation of his political rights. He was arrested in March 2008 after urging Chinese netizens to come to Sichuan to document the plight of families hit by the earthquake. His lawyer today told Agence France-Presse that “the trial only lasted 12 minutes” and that he had the right to a further appeal.
Reporters Without Borders condemns this travesty of justice and calls for charges to be dropped against Tan Zuoren and for his immediate release. “Instead of attacking this activist who only wanted justice, the authorities should focus on the responsibility of local officials for the collapse of schools costing the lives of 5,000 Children,” it said.