March 17, 2006

China Sentences Internet Writer to 10 Years in Prison

BEIJING -- A Chinese court jailed a teacher for 10 years on Friday for publishing anti-government views on the Internet, continuing an official crackdown on Web-based dissidents.

Ren Ziyuan, 27, had been found guilty of "subversion of state power" after posting a tract entitled "The Road to Democracy" and other essays, his father, Ren Rusheng, told Reuters.

New York-based watchdog Human Rights in China said the tract asserted citizens had the right to violently overthrow tyranny.

Ren was sentenced by the Jining Intermediate People's Court in the eastern province of Shandong. His lawyer, Zhang Chengmao, said he had pleaded not guilty and would appeal the sentence.

"I do know that whatever Ren Ziyuan wrote was totally within the scope of free expression," said Zhang. "He was a teacher who had his own ideas, but he never acted on those ideas."

Ren, a junior high school teacher in Shandong, was detained by police in May. At a trial in September, prosecutors accused him of posting other "subversive" essays on the Internet and planning to form a political group, the Mainland Democratic Frontline, said his father who also attended that hearing.

Defense lawyer Zhang said the prosecution had presented no evidence during the trial from international Internet companies. Yahoo has acknowledged providing Chinese authorities with some evidence in other investigations of dissidents.

Ren joins a growing line of writers and intellectuals who have recently been sentenced for speaking out on the Internet.

This week, Human Rights in China said another Shandong dissident, Li Jianping, had been charged with "incitement to subvert state power" over postings on overseas Chinese Web sites.