Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that dissident Wang Xiaoning was sentenced to 10 years in prison on the basis of essays he distributed through the Internet. Wang was sentenced more than two years ago, but his case has only recently come to light.
Wang Xiaoning, born in 1951, was detained on September 1, 2002 on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power.” He was formally arrested on September 30, 2002, and went to trial at the Beijing Municipal First Intermediary People’s Court on July 25, 2003. On September 12, 2003, the court sentenced Wang to 10 years in prison and two years’ subsequent deprivation of political rights on the charge of incitement to subvert state power.
The allegations against Wang related to electronic journals he published from 2000 to 2002 and distributed by email and through Yahoo! Groups that Wang established anonymously in mainland China and Hong Kong. The journals, called Democratic Reform Free Forum and Current Political Commentary, included articles written by Wang under his real name and pen names, and also articles written by others, advocating democratic reform and a multi-party system. Wang also posted articles on a number of Web sites in China and overseas.
The judgment against Wang (appended to this press release) lists a number of phrases in these articles deemed objectionable by the authorities, including the following:
Wang was also accused of advocating the establishment of the “China Third Road Party,” and of communicating by email with Liu Guokai, leader of the overseas China Social Democratic Party, which the Chinese government considers a “hostile organization.”
Among the evidence against Wang cited in the judgment is information provided by Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. stating that Wang’s “aaabbbccc“ Yahoo! Group was set up using the mainland China-based email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. also confirmed that the email address email@example.com, through which Wang sent messages to the Group, was a mainland China-based account. The judgment does not indicate whether Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. or Yahoo! China (which is now operated by mainland-based Alibaba.com) provided specific information regarding Wang’s identity. The judgment also notes that in 2001, administrators of Wang’s mainland China-based Yahoo! Group noticed the political content of Wang’s writings and did not allow him to continue distribution through the Group. He then began distributing his journal by email to individual email addresses.
The judgment states that following a search of Wang’s home on September 1, 2002, police found the offending essays in his personal computer files, as well as records of his email traffic. The prosecution’s evidence also included statements by two witnesses who had communicated with Wang by email after reading his essays in email or on Web sites.
Sources in China told HRIC that Wang Xiaoning repeatedly suffered physical abuse in detention between September 2002 and February 2004. In May 2004, Wang was transferred to the Beijing Municipal No. 2 Prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He appealed to the Supreme People’s Court, but his appeal was denied in December 2004. Sources say that following his transfer to Beijing Municipal No. 2 Prison, Wang had been warned that if he submitted his appeal, he would be denied any opportunity for parole, reduction of sentence for good behavior or other privileges. Since then, he has been subjected to the prison’s second most severe form of solitary confinement.
The heavy sentence of 10 years imposed upon Wang Xiaoning illustrates the risks Chinese people expose themselves to through no more than the peaceful expression of political views. HRIC urges the international community to take up Wang’s case as it has those of more well-known dissidents, and to press the Chinese government to release Wang and others imprisoned for exercising rights guaranteed under Chinese and international human rights law.