Amnesty International details 33 Chinese Internet arrests
IDG News Service - In the same week that a Chinese government official said more people than ever before are using the Internet in his country, human rights group Amnesty International issued a report detailing the detainment or imprisonment of 33 people in China in connection with use of the global computer network.
The list is heavy with the names of political activists and dissidents detained or jailed for activities carried out over or in connection with the Internet, including four members of the China Democracy Party (CDP) and 14 members of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that is outlawed in China.
The report also singled out technology companies Microsoft Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Nortel Networks Corp. and Websense Inc. as vendors that have "provided important technology which helps the Chinese authorities censor the Internet."
Microsoft, Sun, Nortel, Cisco and Websense did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The report pointed to Nortel Networks "along with some other international firms" as providing China with technology that will help the government "shift from filtering content at the international gateway level to filtering content of individual computers, in homes, Internet cafes, universities and businesses."
Along with media reports, Amnesty International cited the work of Greg Walton, a researcher at the International Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Montreal, as the basis for its claims.
The 33 cases detailed in the report do not necessarily point to a crackdown on activities conducted over the Internet -- China arrests activists on a regular basis, and in many cases the Internet is not involved. But it does illustrate the watchful eye that the state keeps on the roughly 54 million people who are said to use the Internet in China.
"It's very difficult to know," said Mark Allison, the Amnesty researcher who wrote the report, when asked how big a part the Internet played in the cases outlined. "They have all been arrested either partly or wholly for Internet use, quite often on one charge of spreading reactionary material and another charge [for example] of being a member of Falun Gong. They are found in the first place because they have been using the Net and their identities were known."
The longest sentence detailed in the report is a 12-year jail term handed down to Yao Yue, a Beijing graduate student who was tried in December last year for downloading and disseminating material from Falun Gong Web sites, according to Amnesty. Other sentences handed down to Falun Gong members start at three years, and in five cases the sentences or the status
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