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Cyber-dissident Du Daobin sentenced to four years of house arrest
Reporters Without Borders

A sentence of four years of house arrest passed today on Chinese cyber-dissident Du Daobin by a court in Xiaogan (in the central province of Hubei) is lenient compared with the long jail terms usually imposed on cyber-dissidents in China, Reporters Without Borders acknowledged.

But the fact remains that Du was unfairly convicted on the baseless charge of "inciting subversion of the state," the organisation stressed.

Arrested on 28 October 2003 for posting articles on the Internet advocating democracy and respect for human rights, Du was also sentenced to loss of civic rights for two years.

"This is a Pyrrhic victory," Reporters Without Borders said. "It allows Du to leave prison but it puts him under such a degree of police surveillance that his freedom is illusory. This sentence aims both to silence a human rights activist and at the same time appease those in China and abroad who criticised his imprisonment."

Du's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said neither he nor Du were allowed to say a word during the trial, which lasted just 15 minutes. Du was able to go home but he will have to report to the police each week for the next four years. Mo said his client "recognises having posted 26 essays on the Internet but refuses to admit that this is a crime and still less that it is a crime of subversion."

Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that Chinese academic Liu Xiaobo, whose whereabouts had been unknown since 28 May (on the eve of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacres), was reachable at his home today although his Internet connection is still cut. Along with some 100 other Chinese intellectuals, Liu had issued an appeal to the authorities for Du's release in February.

With a total of 61 cyber-dissidents detained, China is the world's biggest prison for those who try to express themselves freely online. It is also the country where e-mail interception and online censorship have been developed the most. Reporters Without Borders will issue a new report on the obstacles to the free flow of information online in some 60 countries on 22 June. It will be available on the Reporters Without Borders website (

Du was arrested as he returned home from work on 28 October 2003. After detaining him, police searched his home and confiscated computer material, letters, an address book and copies of books published abroad. They "strongly advised" his wife, Xia Chun-rong, and his 12-year-old son to have no contact with foreign journalists. They also told his wife that Du "went too far."

Aged 40, Du posted many articles online calling peacefully for more democracy and freedom of expression in China. His posts also called for the release of fellow cyber-dissident Liu Di, a young student who was imprisoned for posting messages in online forums called for democracy in China. She was released on 28 November 2003 after more than a year in prison without being tried.

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