Joined: 08 Apr 2003
Location: South Korea (Permanent Vacation)
|Posted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 1:47 am Post subject: NY Times Researcher Faces Death Penalty
|New York Times Researcher Faces Death Penalty
By Benjamin Kang Lim
BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing police have leveled an accusation of fraud against a Chinese researcher for the New York Times who was arrested last year on a charge of leaking state secrets to foreigners, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
The new accusation against Zhao Yan means police can hold him for another seven months without bringing him to trial.
When Zhao's maximum detention period of seven months was up in May, police told lawyer Mo Shaoping that Zhao was also suspected of involvement in "a major crime of fraud."
Police did not elaborate on the accusation but "that allowed them to calculate his detention period from zero again," Mo told Reuters.
The Communist Party, which has monopolised power since sweeping to power in 1949, has no qualms about crushing perceived challenges to its rule and appears to have taken a harsher line against journalists in recent months.
On Tuesday, China accused Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based reporter for Singapore's Straits Times newspaper, of spying for unspecified foreign agencies. His wife said it was a set-up.
In April, a court in the southern province of Hunan sentenced Shi Tao, a former editor of the Contemporary Business News in the provincial capital Changsha, to 10 years in prison for providing state secrets to an unnamed overseas publication.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said recently China had the most journalists in prison of any country.
DENIED BAIL, ACCESS
Zhao has been denied access to his family and lawyer since his detention last September on grounds that his case involves state secrets.
"His daughter and older sister are very worried," said a source close to the family who requested anonymity.
"For them, Zhao Yan is a good person and they can't understand why he has been held for such a long time without reason," the source said.
Police had rejected three bail requests and eight applications filed by the lawyer to meet Zhao, Mo said.
Police detained Zhao on suspicion of helping the New York Times break the politically sensitive news that military chief Jiang Zemin would retire from politics, according to sources familiar with the case.
Zhao was formally arrested last October, but details of the charge against him have not been revealed.
The New York Times has denied Zhao was the source of its scoop on Jiang's imminent retirement at the Sept. 16-19 Communist Party plenum and has lobbied the U.S. government to press China for his release.
If indicted and convicted, Zhao faces a maximum penalty of death.
Before joining the Times, Zhao had exposed corruption and tested the boundaries of official tolerance of media freedoms.
Zhao quit as chief reporter of China Reform magazine in April 2004 after a run-in with his editor over a story on farmers' rights.
He was seen as a troublemaker for helping thousands of farmers write petitions seeking to sack what they said were corruption mayors in Tangshan city near Beijing and the southeastern province of Fujian.