An independent journalist in China has been sentenced to twelve years in prison. Yang Tianshui was arrested in December 2005 on charges of "subversion of state power" for writing and putting on the Internet articles in support of the "Velvet Action of China." The nonviolent "Velvet Action of China" movement is modeled on the 1989 Velvet Revolution that led to the peaceful overthrow of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.
Mr. Yang is a member of PEN, an international association of writers working to advance literature and defend the free expression of ideas. He spent ten years in prison for criticizing the Chinese military's role in the 1989 suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, China has the highest number – more than thirty --of imprisoned journalists of any country in the world. Among those imprisoned is Zhao Yan, a researcher for the New York Times newspaper.
Mr. Zhao has been detained since September 2004, allegedly for revealing state secrets. The charges reportedly are based on allegations that Zhao was the source for a New York Times article concerning former President Jiang Zemin's retirement from his last official post, an allegation which the New York Times denies. Mr. Zhao is still awaiting trial.
In its latest human rights report on China, the U.S. State Department cites concerns about harassment, detention and imprisonment of journalists for political reasons. Josette Shiner, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs, says the U.S. is committed to "ensuring maximum access to information," in China and elsewhere:
"We know throughout the world. . . .that the tools of repression, the tools of censorship are many and varied. Certainly in the technological age, we see new manifestations of that."
President George W. Bush says, "You can't have a democracy unless there is a free and vibrant press corps." He says, "Any time there's a non-transparent regime without a free press to hold people to account, it creates an unpredictability in the world."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.