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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
China internet dissident 'on hunger strike'
High school students surf the web at a Beijing shopping mall
Beijing is wary of the powers of the internet
One of four Chinese internet dissidents jailed last week on subversion charges is refusing all food, a New York-based human rights group has said.

Xu Wei, a 28-year-old journalist for Beijing's Consumer daily, has been on hunger strike since he was sentenced on 28 May, Human Rights in China said.

Xu and a co-defendant, Jin Haike, were sentenced to 10 years in prison for posting articles on the internet critical of the Chinese Government.

During his trial, Xu told the court he had been brutally beaten and tortured with electric shocks to his genitals after refusing to admit guilt, according to Human Rights in China.

"His health is rapidly deteriorating because of the abuse he suffered previously during his two years in custody while awaiting sentencing," the group said in a statement.

Xu and his three co-defendants had set up an internet-based group, the New Youth Society, which was dedicated to exploring democracy and social reform.

Yang Zili, a 31-year-old computer engineer, and Zhang Honghai, a 29-year-old freelance writer, were each sentenced to eight years in prison.

The Chinese authorities are keen to promote the commercial potential of the internet, but are anxious to control its political content.

The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders estimates that China employs 30,000 people to watch what its people are doing online.

The group estimates that 36 people have been arrested and jailed for putting controversial content on the internet.

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