IFJ Condemns China’s Harsh Sentence for Unpublished Articles

Apr. 07, 2009

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is appalled that a Chinese court has jailed a legal practitioner for four years and deprived him of political rights for five years because of several unpublished articles and his interviews with the media.

The People’s Court of Jixi, in north-east China’s Heilongjiang province, sentenced Yuan Xianchen on March 4.

Yuan, 45, was charged in June 2008 with inciting subversion of state power on the basis of several unpublished articles in which he referred to the Communist Party as autocratic and noted a need for democracy in China. The charges also refer to Yuan agreeing to three interviews with the online news site, the Epoch Times.

The IFJ condemns the criminal prosecution of Yuan. The charge of inciting subversion of state power is ludicrous, especially in a case where the evidence is unpublished notes, IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

The same charge has been used to jail too many journalists and writers in China for fear of citizens exercising their right to free expression.

Yuan’s lawyer, Li Xionbing, told the IFJ, The so-called articles were never published. They were only draft notes of his own comments.

Another lawyer, Li Fangping, added that Yuan would appeal.

Li said Yuan’s wife, who was only informed of the verdict a day after the hearing, was very worried about her husband’s deteriorating health.

Yuan had told the court that security personnel had assaulted him in his cell, causing bleeding and bruising to his head and nose.

The grounds for the prosecution were unsubstantiated under the Chinese constitution, Article 35, and the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information [agreed in 1995 by experts in international law, national security and human rights, and repeatedly cited by United Nations entities], Li said.

He added that the assault on Yuan was illegal under Section 43 of China’s Criminal Law.

The IFJ calls on China’s government to instruct authorities at all levels to end use of the charge of subversion of state power, which is commonly used as a tool to restrict freedom of expression, White said.

The IFJ urges the Jixi appeal court to quashed Yuan’s conviction and investigate the assault on Yuan in detention.

For reference:

IFJ Asia-Pacific – +612 9333 0919

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide

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