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CHINA: Reporters Without Borders supports family's appeal for release of cyberdissident Yang Jianli

(Mar. 16, 2004) Reporters Without Borders is backing a family's appeal to the Chinese authorities for the release of jailed cyberdissident Yang Jianli, who is reportedly on hunger strike in protest at prison conditions.

The international press freedom organisation is also calling on US Secretary of State Colin Powell to put pressure on Beijing to release Yang, a permanent resident of the United States since 1989 and the husband and father of US citizens. (boxun.com)

In a letter to the authorities the family condemns his imprisonment as illegal under China's criminal code. The cyberdissident has in fact been imprisoned in Beijing for 22 months. He was tried on 4 August 2003, and the verdict was adjourned for deliberation.

The authorities had four months to make a ruling, in line with the criminal code. This deadline having passed, holding Yang in detention is an infringement of Chinese law

The family's letter was handed over on 12 March 2004 to the permanent committee of the People's National Congress. Since then a petition has been launched on the Internet site: www.yangjianli.com.

Reporters Without Borders supports this petition launched by his wife, Christina Fu, an American national, and calls for his immediate release.

Yang has asked to be allowed to speak to his Chinese lawyer Mo Shaoping, without the prison warders and security agents recording their conversation. He is also claiming the right to be allowed to write letters and has protested at being made to wait 14 months before seeing his lawyer. Yang began a hunger strike on 3 March to press his demands, according to unconfirmed reports.

Yang was editor-in-chief of the dissident electronic review Yibao (www.chinaeweekly.com). He was arrested in April 2002 after he returned to China using a friend's passport to investigate workers' strikes in the north-east. It was his first time back in the country since he was expelled for taking part in Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989.

Officially arrested for "failing to have a valid passport", Yang is in fact the victim of government repression of political dissidents. On 17 July 2003, he was convicted of "illegal entry to Chinese territory" and "spying for Taiwan". (boxun.com)

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