Teacher may be freed if prosecution fails to find more evidence
A court in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan has sent the case of a schoolteacher accused of posting subversive articles on the Internet back to prosecutors because of insufficient evidence, RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese services report.
Ouyang Yi, a 35-year-old elementary-school teacher, stood trial for subversion in October 2003, but no verdict or sentence was handed down by the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court.
Instead, the court has repeatedly requested more information from the city's procuratorate, the state prosecution office, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in China said in a statement faxed to RFA's offices.
Prosecutors have been given one month to satisfy the court that they can make a case against Ouyang, who was arrested in December 2002 for allegedly posting an article online that for gradual moves towards democracy in China.
If they fail to do so, the case against Ouyang could be dropped. That would be a first for a case of alleged subversion, the Center 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.
Government filters block access to Web sites abroad run by dissidents, human rights groups, and some news organizations. The content of domestic sites is monitored and sometimes censored. Banned Web sites also include those offering pornography, and those belonging to banned organizations such as the Falungong spiritual movement.
The Chinese authorities are thought to have detained more than 30 people since the Internet boom began in the late 1990s, as part of its crackdown on online dissent. Overall, the government has sought to encourage Internet use for business and educational purposes but not for political discussion.
In December 2003, a court in the northern city of Xi'an sentenced cyber-dissident Yan Jun to two years in jail for subversion, after he posted comments on the Internet calling for a reassessment of the official verdict on the June 1989 massacre.
And in September, Sichuan government official Li Zhi was arrested and charged with "conspiracy to subvert state power" after he expressed his political views on Internet chatrooms.