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Press Freedom In China

Freedom of the press is under attack in many countries. China is among the worst offenders. According to the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists, China has the highest number of imprisoned journalists -- forty-two -– of any country in the world.

Among them is Zhao Yan, a researcher for the New York Times newspaper. Mr. Zhao was detained in September of 2004, allegedly for revealing state secrets. His arrest followed a report by the New York Times that former Chinese President Jiang Zemin was retiring from politics, which later proved correct.

Shi Tao, another Chinese journalist, was arrested after posting on a foreign-based website an internal message the Chinese authorities had sent to his newspaper, the Contemporary Business News. The message warned of social destabilization associated with the return of some dissidents on the Fifteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Mr. Shi was sentenced in April to ten years in prison, allegedly for revealing state secrets to foreign organizations.

Hong Kong citizen Ching Cheong writes for the Singapore Straits Times newspaper. He was arrested by Chinese police in April after he attempted to get hold of the transcripts of an interview former Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang gave before dying earlier this year. Mr. Ching has been accused by the Chinese authorities of spying, and is reportedly being held in Beijing in isolation.

Chinese journalists Yu Huafeng and Li Minying write for the provocative and influential Southern Metropolitan Daily newspaper. Their signed articles revealed the extent of the Sars epidemics and the alleged role played by Chinese authorities in the brutal death of a detainee. They were imprisoned in January of 2004. Mr. Yu has been sentenced to eight years on corruptions charges and Mr. Li has been sentenced to six years on bribery charges.

An unprecedented open letter signed by more than two-thousand Chinese journalists working for Chinese newspapers and internet sites urges the Beijing government to release their two unjustly detained colleagues.

Freedom of press enables the public to hold officials and those in positions of power accountable for their actions. The U.S. views any attempt to stifle the free flow of information with great concern. That includes the arrests of journalists in China.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.