Chinese court considers appeal of “cyber-dissidents” sentenced to long jail terms

Of all the depressing stories coming out of China regarding arrests of innocent citizens, whistleblowers and those who simply tried to express their grievances, the story of the young men sentenced to 8- and 10-year sentences for creating an on-line discussion group on China’s social problems struck me as one of the most very tragic.

It is a good sign that they are at least being allowed to appeal their stiff sentences, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that they should never have been arrested, let alone sentenced to up to a decade in prison. Here’s where it stands:

BEIJING, : A court opened the appeal trial of four Internet dissidents to decide if they deserve up to 10 years in jail for posting their views on social issues online, relatives and a Hong Kong-based rights group said.

Xu Wei, Yang Zili, Zhang Honghai, and Jin Haike, are scheduled to appear at a Beijing Higher People’s Court five months after they were sentenced for subverting state power, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

“The appeals hearing began at 9 am (0100 GMT). The court won’t let us in, but the lawyers have entered,” Yang’s wife Lu Kun told AFP.

The defendants are appealing on the basis that three key witnesses whose testimonies against them in the original trial have since retracted their statements, according to the center. Their original statements had been made while they were in detention.

Yang’s wife Lu said the three witnesses — friends of the four — were not allowed to enter the courtroom even though they were prepared to testify in the defendants’ defense.

The center’s director Frank Lu said the case was seriously flawed. “They can’t prove these four people are guilty. There are no new witnesses,” Frank Lu said.

Xu, a former journalist, and Jin, a young intellectual, were sentenced to 10 years in jail, while the two others received eight-year sentences.

The four were arrested in March 2001 after they established the “New Youth Association,” an intellectual study group that discussed China’s growing social problems, including rural issues and widening inequality.

I know of so many outrages, but this stands out for its sheer senselessness, its blatant unfairness and undisguised cruelty. I know, it’s an unfair world. But there are limits to how far unfairness can go. In this instance, that limit has clearly been crossed, and then some.

The Discussion: No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.