May 15, 2006

China revives case against NYT researcher

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has revived the case of a
detained New York Times researcher which was dropped in March,
raising hopes at the time of his imminent release, his lawyer
said on Monday.

The news comes as an activist who set up an environmental
group after studying village efforts to fight pollution went on
trial on Monday charged with illegally obtaining state secrets.

Researcher Zhao Yan, held since September 2004, had faced a
10-year jail term after the state security apparatus charged
him with leaking state secrets for telling the New York Times
details of rivalry between President Hu Jintao and his
predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

But China dropped the charge along with a lesser fraud
charge in March in a move seen as a surprise concession timed
before President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington in April.

But that was not to be.

"The prosecutors notified me last Friday that they had
re-transferred the case to the Beijing Second Intermediate
Court one or two days earlier," Zhao's layer, Mo Shaoping, told
Reuters by telephone.

Mo said he did not know what charges were on the new
indictment bill or whether a date had been set for trial.

He said the prosecutors had used a term of "resuming
criminal investigation and prosecution" to describe the move
but it had no legal basis under Chinese criminal procedure.

"Even they admitted they could not find an article of law
to cite for the re-transfer of the case," Mo said.

Zhao had been expected to be released within days after the
Intermediate court agreed to a request by the prosecution to
withdraw the case on March 17, but he remains in custody.

"It is definitely a prolonged and illegal detention now,"
Mo said.

China broadly defines as a state secret anything that
affects the security and interests of the state and it is
suspicious of any independent organization dealing with
sensitive issues.

Rights groups say the laws are arbitrary enough to be
manipulated for political purposes.

The activist who set up the unofficial environmental group
Green Watch in southern Zhejiang province after studying
village efforts to fight pollution went on trial on Monday
charged with illegally obtaining state secrets.

Tan Kai was detained in October and formally arrested in
December after the group opened a bank account under Tan's
name, the U.S.-based Human Rights (HRIC) In China said.

Tan and five others set up Green Watch after monitoring the
violent struggle of villagers in the nearby city of Dongyang to
shut down waste-spewing chemical plants blamed for crop
failures and birth defects.

The charges stemmed from Tan's employment as a computer
repair technician, when he routinely made backup copies of a
client's computer files, which the authorities claimed
constituted "state secrets," his lawyer, Li Heping, told