Chinese authorities havearrested a man in the northern Hebei province on charges of subversion because he allegedly printed copies of a pro-democracy Internet journal, according to the activist group Human Rights in China (HRIC).
Qi Yanchen was arrested at his office in Poutou, south of Beijing, said Xiao Qiang, executive director of HRIC in Washington D.C. Qi is a bank employee who also works with the China Development Union, an environmental organisation that refers to itself as the Chinese Greenpeace, and that involvement likely was a factor in his arrest, Xiao said.
Police searched Qi's home and seized his computer and copies of the journal VIP Reference. Qi sent e-mail messages urging reforms in China, Xiao said, and besides his work with the China Development Union and his link to VIP Reference, also has written for Consultations, a pro-environmental publication.
Chinese officials have in recent months cracked down on alleged Internet-related crimes. Qi is the second dissident known to have been arrested because of involvement with VIP Reference, known in China as Dacankao. The publication includes clippings from Chinese-language newspapers in Taiwan and Hong Kong that are politically sensitive on the Mainland.
In January of this year, Lin Hai, who owned the Shanghai-based Zhengfang Software Co., was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of "inciting the overthrow of state power."
"It's particularly severe," Xiao said of the arrests of Chinese dissidents. "The sentences are harsher than ever."
Two other men also were arrested this week and although charges against them are not specifically related to computer and Internet use, they had also used computers to communicate, Xiao said.
"We have a very bad feeling about all of these recent arrests," he said, adding that it is likely the recently arrested dissidents could be sentenced to five to 10 years in prison if they are found guilty.
To call attention to human-rights violations in China, the HRIC is asking that business people attending an upcoming conference in Shanghai speak out about the abuses while at the conference. "We will make them more aware that while they're trying to do business in China they must speak out on human-rights violations," he said.
"These harsh crackdowns happening this year go beyond political dissidents to affect ordinary people," Xiao said. "The situation is deteriorating."
China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights last October, but soon thereafter cracked down on criminal cases involving technology. Authorities also have continued to arrest dissidents who are using the Internet to spread their calls for political and social reform.
Activists in the US contend that such arrests violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Writes, which says, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."