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Wednesday, January 20, 1999 Published at 11:35 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Prison for China Net dissident

Lin's wife Xu Hong says government is making an example of her husband

A Chinese man has been jailed for two years after being accused of using the Internet to incite people to overthrow the state.

Relatives of the man, Lin Hai, said the verdict was announced after a closed court session in Shanghai.

BBC Correspondent Duncan Hewitt: This case reflects China's anxiety over the Internet
Mr Lin, who is a computer engineer, was found guilty of subversion by providing lists of Chinese e-mail addresses to a United States-based dissident publication.

Mr Lin denied being a dissident. He said he handed over the addresses only for business reasons.

The BBC Beijing correspondent says the case is seen as a reflection of China's anxiety at the rapid growth of the internet.

[ image: Lin Hai: 'No political motives']
Lin Hai: 'No political motives'
Mr Lin - also known as Patrick Lin - was the first person in China charged with using the Internet for the purposes of political subversion.

He is accused of distributing 30,000 Chinese e-mail addresses to VIP Reference - a pro-democracy journal published by Chinese dissidents based in the US.

The address list was reportedly used to distribute banned news and comment material to the Chinese e-mail address owners.

Mr Lin stood trial on 4 December in a closed courtroom. Defending himself, he reportedly argued in court that he was trying to develop business contacts and had no political motives

His wife, who was not allowed to attend his trial, has said that he routinely exchanged e-mail addresses with organisations around the world in order to expand his business.

Xu Hong argued that e-mail addresses were public information and providing them could not be considered a crime.

She believes the Chinese Government wants to make an example of Lin Hai as a warning to other Internet users.

Mr Lin has not spoken to his family since being arrested in March. His wife was detained on the day of the trial by police, who said later she had been mistaken for a crime suspect.

Opposition crackdown

Mr Lin's case coincides with a crackdown on attempts to set up an opposition party.

Since his trial in December, three founders of the would-be party have been sentenced to prison terms of 11 to 13 years.

Human rights organisations have demanded Mr Lin's release and called the decision to put him on trial a "blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression".

Human Rights in China, a New York-based group, called his detention arbitrary.

The publishers of "VIP Reference" have issued a statement calling the prosecution of Mr Lin a "landmark case of Internet persecution" and said the government was trying to intimidate its critics.

Government's Web fears

The Chinese Government has set up special task forces have been set up to monitor the Internet.

Service providers are required to register all users with the government and barriers have been installed to try to block sites deemed subversive or pornographic.

In an explosion of Internet use in the country, over one million Chinese now use the technology. Although that is a small proportion of the population, it represents a well-educated and influential elite.

Chinese dissidents at home and abroad have been quick to adopt the Internet as a means of distributing information the government would like to restrict.

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