Another Chinese reporter’s life is ruined

Keep those reforms coming. It really makes me sick beyond words.

A Chinese journalist who worked for a financial newspaper was sentenced Saturday to 10 years in prison on charges of giving state secrets to foreigners.

Shi Tao’s family said the sentence was the minimum possible under his March conviction “illegally providing state secrets to foreigners.” They said the maximum was life in prison.

Shi worked at the Contemporary Business News, a financial publication, and was convicted of leaking the contents of a confidential memo at the paper to a foreign publication, the official Xinhua News Agency said in the first detailed account of charges against him. It didn’t explain the nature of the memo or identify the foreign publication.

Besides working as a journalist, Shi also published Internet essays advocating reforms to China’s one-party system.

The 37-year-old Shi was sentenced by a court in the central city of Changsha. His arrest in November prompted appeals for his release by activists including the international writers group PEN.

A series of Chinese journalists have faced similar charges of violating vague security laws as communist leaders struggle to maintain control of information in the burgeoning Internet era.

China knows how the world sees this. They saw the backlash against the arrest of cyberdissidents Liu Di and Du Daobin. They know how reactionary it makes them appear. They want to clean up their image and join the superpowers club. So why do they keep doing this? What’s their strategy? I can think of only one answer, and that’s to keep potential “troublemakers” in a perpetual state of fear to help ensure “harmony.” That’s a classic technique of a police state, and I really look forward to the day China abandons it.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

I think it’s significant that Shi is also a reformer…

I guess I shouldn’t say this without knowing what the contents of the memo were, but it really is a tragedy…and I’m as confused as you are, Richard, about what the strategy is. Does this sort of thing really help “maintain harmony”? Killing the monkey to frighten the chickens, or whatever that proverb is? In the internet era, they have to know that this is like trying to plug a leaky dike with your fingers. It seems like such a cost in international prestige for such little benefit.

Of course, look at the way our (US) current administration is conducting foreign policy…

April 30, 2005 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

i’ve been trying to track down what that document is. i can’t find it. it is not within the body of works that he signs his name to, as they are mostly poetry. i believe that he emailed the document and it was published as an official document sent from an unattributed source. maybe this was a canary trap (see tom clancy)? no, that would make the communists too smart …

May 1, 2005 @ 3:49 am | Comment

It seems like most of the time, the “spreading state secrets” charge is pretty much b.s. – I think that Uighyr activist who was recently released got arrested for that, and she had been sending newspaper clippings to her husband in the states…

I mean, how sensitive could this really have been if it was a document given out to the entire newspaper staff?

May 1, 2005 @ 12:54 pm | Comment

after some snooping around, i have a hypothesis about the document which i have translated at:
http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20050501_1.htm

it may be an edict from the central propaganda department about what should not appear in the press, and that is the national secret!

May 1, 2005 @ 1:19 pm | Comment

Cool snooping, ESWN!

You know, I have an English translation of an account of the Cultural Revolution – in English it’s called “Turbulent Decade,” by Yan & Gao. My understanding is that this book was originally an approved history. But it was so damning to the leadership that it was quickly pulled and censored.

Old news indeed…

May 1, 2005 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

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