China has handed down a suspended jail term to a former civil servant who posted essays critical of the government on the Internet, while stepping up its crackdown on Web sites considered undesirable by Beijing, RFA's Mandarin service reports.
The authorities in the central province of Hubei sentenced Du Daobin, 40, to a three-year suspended prison term for "instigation to subvert state power," official media said.
The ruling was handed down by the Intermediate People's Court of Xiaogan City. Du, who was given a relatively light sentence for pleading guilty and cooperating with the authorities, was also deprived of his political rights for two years.
The court heard that Du published his 26 articles on the Internet from May 2002 to Oct. 2003, "overtly instigating and subverting the state power by way of slander," Xinhua news agency reported.
Du was detained by police in Wuhan last October for posting online essays in support of fellow dissident, Liu Di, who was released from police custody last November.
Liu, a university student who wrote satirical essays poking fun at the government, spent more a year in detention but was never charged with a crime. She was known as the "stainless steel mouse" and became a high-profile symbol for free speech in China.
Several dozen Chinese academics, reporters and scholars sent a letter to Premier Wen Jiabao last November protesting against Du's arrest, saying it violated the free speech rights guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.
Meanwhile, several hundred former activists involved in the 1989 student movements and Web-based dissidents were detained or had their Internet access cut off around the 15th anniversary of the bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests in and around Tiananmen Square.
Beijing also launched a crackdown Friday on Web sites it considers undesirable, launching a special site for people to report Web pages with "unhealthy content."
The site, net.china.cn, said it aimed to "protect the public interest" by fostering a better environment for China's youth. Internet users had already reported the presence of four Web sites offering "free movies and other services," it said. "If those sites don't take action on their own, we will further expose their actions," it said in a posting.
Officials have estimated that China will have nearly 100 million Web users by the end of 2004.
The Ministry of Information Industry said Thursday it would "cut off the connection of illegal Web sites to servers, strengthen management on information at on-line BBS and chatting rooms, and set up a database for IP addresses," official media quoted minister Wang Xudong as saying.
Wang acknowledged that the Internet had played an active role in promoting China's economic growth, social progress, and enhancement of people's living standards. "But slack management has led to rampant spread of violent and pornographic information in the Internet, which can easily poison minors' mental health," he said.