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Journalists and Internet users face retribution

(IFJ/IFEX) - June 22, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned that China's law enforcement officers are further targeting the free flow of information over the internet in the wake of a series of incidents of unrest in the country in June.

The IFJ has learned that online journalist and activist Wang Yuqin was punished with two weeks' detention after she repeatedly appealed for medical treatment for her detained husband Yang Qiuyu, also an online journalist and activist.

Yang was detained by police after taking photographs at so-called jasmine revolution protests in Beijing on March 6. Now in a detention centre, he is suffering from a leg infection.

Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch reported on June 16 that Wang was punished for fighting for her husband's rights and for applying to discuss labour rights at a forum.

The IFJ is also informed that several internet users have been punished by local public security bureaus, citing the Law of the People's Republic of China on Public Security Administration Punishments under which police are able to fine or detain without legal process anyone who is alleged to distribute rumours or cause social disturbances.

One case relates to an incident in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, south-east China in which more than 1000 people gathered on the street for three days and nights, after police detained two street vendors on June 10. According to reports, police in Zengcheng county said on June 15 that they detained an internet user by the name of Chen, alleging he was involved in disseminating false information online regarding reports that police beat a street vendor to death. Chen remains under investigation.

In a separate incident in Chao'an county, Guangdong province, police reportedly punished a person for allegedly posting "rumours" online and causing social unrest in Guxiang township, Chaozhou. The case relates to three days of clashes from June 3 as hundreds of people gathered outside a ceramics factory after a former factory worker was seriously injured by unknown individuals when he appealed for his wages. Members of the crowd clashed with police, and cars were set alight.

Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reported on June 9 that an internet user was punished on June 8 with 10 days' detention for inciting people to gather and fight. The report did not identify the content of the alleged "rumours".

On June 20, state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported another case in which an internet user was punished with 10 days' detention after posting information about a suspected breach of land regulations in relocating a hospital in Guiyang, Guizhou Province. The agency report said Nanming District police alleged the information posted on May 26 and June 17 was false.

"The actions of provincial authorities in these cases highlight a worrying trend in which the notorious public security law is wielded without due process or transparency, and which jeopardises the fundamental rights of internet users in China," IFJ Asia-Pacific said.

The IFJ urges China's Minister of Public Security, Meng Jianzhu, to curtail police power and prevent further abuses of under the public security law.

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