Chinese cyber-dissident gets four years' house arrest

Let off lightly

Chinese cyber-dissident, Du Daobin, has been sentenced to four years under house arrest after being convicted for posting pro-democracy articles on the Net. Du's trial in Xiaogan, in the central province of Hubei, on Friday lasted just 15 minutes, during which time he was not allowed to speak.

Although Du accepts that he posted 26 essays on democracy and respect for human rights, he refuses to admit that it was a crime or that he was guilty of subversion.

Human rights organisation, Reporters Without Borders, accepted that the sentence was lenient, especially since Chinese authorities in the past have imposed long jail terms to such activists. Even so, the group maintains that Du was convicted unfairly on the "baseless charge of 'inciting subversion of the state'".

"This is a Pyrrhic victory," said Reporters Without Borders. "It allows Du to leave prison but it puts him under such a degree of police surveillance that his freedom is illusory. This sentence aims both to silence a human rights activist and at the same time appease those in China and abroad who criticised his imprisonment."

Du, 40, was arrested last October as he returned home from work. As well as pr-democracy activist, he also campaigned for the release of Liu Di, a young student imprisoned for posting messages calling for democracy in China on on-line forums. Liu was released in November last year after more than a year of detention without trial. ®

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