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Chinese cyber dissident freed after 10-year sentence

(CPJ/IFEX) - 31 August 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Bob Dietz/CPJ Asia Program Coordinator

Chinese dissident Wang Xiaoning was released today after serving a 10-year prison term on charges of "incitement to subvert state power," a case built in good part on client information supplied by Yahoo. Wang had used his Yahoo email account and the discussion forum Yahoo Groups to spread ideas the government deemed dangerous. His case closely parallels that of journalist Shi Tao, another Yahoo user who fell afoul of the Chinese government. In 2005, Shi was convicted of "illegally leaking state secrets abroad" and given a 10-year sentence. Yahoo had helped authorities identify Shi through his account information.

Shi, an editor for the newspaper Dangdai Shang Bao in Hunan province, had used his Yahoo account to send notes about the local propaganda department's instructions on how to cover the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The notes were sent to the editor of a U.S.-based news website. The propaganda department's predictably restrictive directive was declared a state secret only after that fact. But Shi had been on the government's surveillance radar for a while. He had written essays calling for political reform, which were posted on overseas news websites that were banned in China. (Click here for an example of his essays translated in English, and here to see a transcript of the email containing the content of the government propaganda directive.)

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