Write-a-Thon Series: Shi Tao

November 19, 2009

This posting is part of our Write-a-Thon Cases Series. For more information visit www.amnestyusa.org/writeathon/

Four years ago, Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His crime? Sending an e-mail.

©AI         Shi Tao
©AI Shi Tao

In April 2004, Shi Tao e-mailed a pro-democracy Web site in the United States about a government regulation ordering the country’s media outlets to down play the upcoming 15th anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square.  Authorities arrested him seven months later, charging him with “providing state secrets to foreign entities.”

China has a history of cracking down on freedom of expression through restricting journalism. It has implemented broad censorship of the Internet. Authorities used information provided by the host of Shi Tao’s e-mail account, Yahoo!, to convict him in April 2005.

Amnesty International considers Shi Tao to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his peaceful self-expression.  His family has been continually harassed, and his wife eventually divorced him under immense pressure.  At the beginning of his prison term, Shi Tao was forced to labor under hard conditions in prison that has compromised his health. Although his prison conditions have later improved, he still has six years left in his sentence.  Help us campaign against this injustice during Amnesty International’s Global Write-a-thon from December 5-13, calling on the Chinese authorities to release Shi Tao immediately and urging Yahoo! to stop violating customer privacy.  Call attention to China’s ambiguous prosecution laws, and remind officials that freedom of expression, promised in the Chinese constitution, is an inherent human right.