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China sentences Hong Kong publisher to 10 years' jail for trivial offence

Publisher Yao Wentian
Publisher Yao Wentian

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is concerned by a decision from the Shenzhen Intermediate Court to sentence a Hong Kong publisher to 10 years imprisonment for a trivial offence while he is preparing to publish a new book by a dissident writer.

Yao Wentian, also known as Yiu Man-Tin, was accused by Shenzhen police of "smuggling ordinary goods" on October 27 2013 when he was arrested for carrying containers of paint to a friend in Shenzhen. On May 7, the court sentenced Yiu to 10 years' imprisonment and fined him 25,000 yuan (US$4,000) for bringing the paints in from Hong Kong without paying import duty.

Yiu's son Edmond Yiu told the IFJ that his father had brought in vegetables or milk powder to his friend in Shenzhen for years in return for a place to store some books and magazines. However, in July 2013, the friend suddenly asked his father to bring him some paint. When his father did so two months later, he was detained and eventually charged.

Edmond Yiu said: "My father's case is simply a case that the authorities are using to send a chilling message to all Hong Kong people. Anyone who wants to publish any dissenting comments about the authorities will suffer the same consequences."

Yiu, 73, a retired engineer who has become an independent publisher, has been preparing to publish a book by dissident and writer Yu Jie. The book, about China's President Xi Jinping, is entitled Godfather Xi Jinping. Yiu has published several other books by Yu Jie which contained acute comment on former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao. Despite rumours that those books were banned, they were published.

The IFJ said: "It's absolutely clear that the motive of the Chinese authorities is not to allow any people to exercise free speech, free speech that is enshrined in China's own Constitution. It is chilling that a 'set-up' seems to have been constructed under instruction from the authorities. We question whether this is the behavior of a responsible or reasonable government."

"We urge all Hong Kong media personnel to stand firm and press the Chief Executive of Hong Kong to demand more information from the Government of Shenzhen.

The IFJ also urges the Shenzhen authorities to give Yiu medical parole, because his health is declining due to asthma and heart problems.

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