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News: China sentences net writer to two years

China sentences net writer to two years

Thu Jul 13,  8:39 AM ET

China sentenced reporter Li Yuanlong to two years in jail on Thursday, adding to its list of writers imprisoned for expressing themselves through the country's expanding but tightly censored internet.

Li, who worked on the Bijie Daily in the southwestern province of Guizhou, was detained in September and charged in February with issuing essays that "fabricated, distorted and exaggerated facts, incited subversion of the state and (sought) to overthrow the socialist system."

He sent the offending essays by e-mail between May and August last year using the pseudonyms "Night Wolf" and "Wolf Howling in the Night."

"I feel it's very unjust," Li's wife, Yang Xiumin, told Reuters of the sentence. "To give such a heavy sentence just for a few essays isn't rule of law. It's not justice."

Li is one of a growing number of Chinese citizens imprisoned for speaking out on the Internet. Zhao Changqing was sentenced to five years in prison in 2003 on the same charges as Li after participating in an Internet open letter to China's parliament.

In March, a Chinese court jailed a teacher, Ren Ziyuan, for 10 years for publishing anti-government views on the Internet.

Li's essays on touchy issues, including unemployment and rural poverty, were sent to U.S.-based Chinese-language news portals considered hostile by Beijing and blocked to most Chinese users.

His lawyer, Li Jianqiang, said Li would appeal the sentence imposed by a Bijie court, but added it was lighter than many expected.

"Legally, to sentence him to even one or two days was wrong, but given China's judicial environment this wasn't as bad as it could have been," the lawyer said. An international outcry over Li's case probably helped his cause, he said.

Li's wife said he would be due for release in September 2007, if he serves the full sentence.

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