CHINESE CITIZENS� RIGHTS ACTIVIST APPEALS WEB SITE CLOSURE


2004.01.30
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The founder of a Chinese Web site set up to advise ordinary people of their legal rights has lodged an appeal with a Beijing court, renewing his battle to reverse the government�s closure of his site, RFA�s Mandarin service reports.

�This afternoon, my attorney officially submitted the appeal to the First Intermediate Peopls's Court of Beijing,� Web site founder Li Jian told RFA on Jan.29. �The court agreed to deliberate on the case, and we paid the legal fee. This means that our lawsuit is reactivated again.�

Li said the lawsuit against the Beijing municipal government�s Telecommunications Management Bureau had only one aim�to get his Web site up and running again. He argues that the decision to pull the plug on his site violates Chinese law, because no regulations exist yet governing sites run by private individuals.

�I got hold of a faxed copy of the bureau�s decision through a merchant who provided our Web servers,� Li said. �In that document, it says the Beijing Telecommunications Management Bureau reached the decision, which was based on an internal memo issued by the Ministry of Information Industry.�

So Li went to visit the Ministry, where he was told that they had instructed the municipal regulators to deal with the matter �according to the law.� The trouble is, according to Li, that no relevant law yet exists.

�They don�t have specific laws and regulations on which to base their administrative actions. That�s why it�s illegal to shut down my Web site because they don�t have any laws regulating individual Web sites. They didn�t follow any legal procedures,� he said.

Li is also hoping that this case will highlight the very issues that led him to set up the site in the first place.

"China is moving more and more towards becoming a society ruled by law, and we all have seen law playing a greater and greater role. So through this channel, I'm hoping that the citizens� rights protection Web site will become a legally recognized site in China,� he said.

China has kept a tight hold on Internet use by its citizens, for fear that its critics could organize themselves into an effective opposition and disseminate their views to China�s fast-growing population of cyber-surfers. While the government is keen to promote the rule of law in theory, the idea of citizens protecting their rights via the Internet is extremely sensitive.

Government filters block access to Web sites abroad run by dissidents, human rights groups, and some news organizations. The Chinese authorities are thought to have detained more than 30 people since the Internet boom began in the late 1990s, often for simply expressing pro-democratic leanings in online postings and articles.#####

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