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 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 10:28 GMT
China charges web dissident
Sign to internet bar in China
Beijing is wary of the internet's power
China has charged an internet dissident with trying to overthrow the government, according to a US-based human rights group.

Ouyang Yi was charged by police in Chengdu, the southern province where he lives, on 7 January, Human Rights in China (HRIC) said.

Chinese officials online
The web is heavily policed in China
He is under detention, and his wife is reportedly borrowing money from friends in order to hire a lawyer to represent him in court. He could face up to 15 years in jail.

Mr Ouyang is the latest victim of a crackdown on free expression on the web.

While Beijing encourages the use of the internet for business purposes, it is wary of its use as a vehicle for political dissent. A recent US study found that it blocks one in 10 web sites to users.

Incriminating letter

Mr Ouyang was arrested on 4 December, and shortly afterwards, police searched his home and seized a number of articles that he had posted on the internet, HRIC said.

The group also quoted sources as saying that Mr Ouyang was also arrested for signing an open letter calling for a number of measures to ease political restrictions in China, including the release of dissidents, which was published on the eve of the Chinese Communist Party congress in November.

At least seven of the 192 people who signed the letter are now reported to have been arrested.

Internet crackdown

Mr Ouyang, a former secondary school teacher, has been arrested several times for his activism.

His most recent arrest comes around the same time as that of three other activists - Liu Di, Li Yibin and Tao Haidong - who had also posted views critical of the government on the web, HRIC said.

Amnesty International said in November that at least 33 people had been detained in China for using the internet in this way.

The president of HRIC, Liu Qing, said in a statement that the latest detentions suggested that China's new party chief, Hu Jintao, was showing that the new administration would not waver from the historical approach to dissent in China.

"It could be that the new leadership feels a need to show it means business and is not going to take a soft line on human rights," Mr Liu said.

See also:

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