CHINESE PENSIONER CHARGED WITH INTERNET SUBVERSION


2003.11.19
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In the latest in a series of crackdowns on citizens who use the Internet to publish political opinions, the Chinese authorities will try a retired worker from Shanghai for subversion after he posted articles arguing for democracy in China, RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese services report.

Sang Jiancheng, 61, will stand trial this month at the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People�s Court on charges of subversion of state power, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said in a statement.

One of Sang�s articles called on China�s communist leadership to protect the interests of retired workers, saying corrupt officials should be eliminated, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. Another article called for democratic elections in China.

"Shanghai�s repression of dissidents has always been harsh, ranking at the top nationwide, so to speak," Zeng Ning, a dissident intellectual in Guizhou Province, told RFA�s Mandarin service. "One hundred and ninety-two people signed the petition, of whom 50 to 60 were Shanghainese, the largest number from a single area. I think Sang played the role of a liaison, and so Shanghai police are using him to set an example."

"Sang is a senior democratic movement activist whose involvement in China�s democracy activities goes back to 1978, 1979, the so-called �Democracy Wall� era," he said. "He is a relatively older activist, who has been persistently participating in the democratic movement nationwide as well as in Shanghai."

Qin Geng, an Internet activist, said many people voiced similar opinions online, but only Sang was singled out this time for arrest. "There is no bottom line of safety, no standard. You don�t know what�s safe to say, what�s not. The boundary is fuzzy," he said, adding that "only one side sets all the rules."

In what rights groups say is a worrying development in the control of online information in China, the government is pressing ahead with plans to set up a countrywide monitoring and control system through a system of strictly controlled Internet caf� chains. Under the new system, each province will select companies to operate the chains locally.

In this way, fewer than 100 Internet caf� chains will be needed to organize the more than 110,000 Internet caf�s throughout the entire country and conduct standardized management on a large scale.

China is keen to promote Internet use for economic and educational purposes but fears it might be used to enable isolated critics to coordinate their actions�posing a threat to Communist Party rule. The authorities have recently sentenced several Web users to jail for posting opinions online that criticized the regime.

Earlier this month, a Chinese businessman who posted an article on the Internet on the sensitive topic of rural unrest was sentenced to three years in jail for subversion, while a High Court in Beijing upheld eight- and 10-year sentences for four Chinese dissidents who posted their opinions online.#####

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