Journalist Sun Lin Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, June 27, 2008) – On June 26, Sun Lin (孙林, a.k.a. Jie Mu (孑木)), was convicted of “illegal possession of firearms” and “gathering crowds to disturb social order” by the Nanjing Xuanwu District People’s Court and sentenced to four years of imprisonment. Sun’s wife and co-defendant, He Fang (何芳), was sentenced to fifteen months of imprisonment immediately commuted to 18 months of probation. She has been released and should be at home now.

Sun and He were detained on May 20, 2007 and later formally arrested on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” and “illegal possession of firearms” by the Nanjing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Xuanwu Sub-division. Sun and He were tried on May 30 at the Nanjing Xuanwu District Peoples Court.

Sun is the former editor of Metropolis, a publication he started in 2000. It was later closed because its views were deemed too critical by the authorities. Sun then started working as a reporter for US-based Boxun. In 2006, Sun’s reporting on alleged forced evictions at a Nanjing spice factory drew wide attention. In March 2007, authorities told Sun to cease his “illegal reporting” and confiscated his journalists ID. Yet despite mounting pressure and harassment by the Nanjing government, Sun continued to report on important and sensitive social justice issues. On May 17, 2007, Sun published an article on petitioners at Tiananmen Square. Four days later, a large contingent of police closed Hes restaurant, searched Sun and Hes home, and detained the couple. Sun was detained for a year prior to his trial. His case was twice sent from the Procuratorate back to the PSB for further investigation due to insufficient evidence. During his incarceration, Sun complained to his lawyers that he had been beaten and forced to confess by the police.

CHRD calls for Sun’s immediate and unconditional release. CHRD believes that Sun has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful activities of reporting on official wrongdoing. The authorities have abused Sun’s right to freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution as well as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed (but not yet ratified).
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