Societies Protest E-mail Crackdown In China

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Science  18 Dec 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5397, pp. 2183
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5397.2183d

A coalition of scientific and free speech organizations is protesting China's prosecution of a software engineer and a former physics student for their use of e-mail on behalf of the pro-democracy movement in that country.

The campaign, kicked off last week, hopes to rally support for the pair by bombarding Chinese officials with e-mail messages. Lin Hai, 31, a Shanghai software company owner, was tried on 4 December for “inciting the overthrow of state power” by passing along 30,000 Chinese e-mail addresses to a U.S.-based electronic newsletter that reports on the democracy movement. Wang Youcai, 32, who faces a 17 December court date, has a history of activism dating from 1989. He was arrested after trying to register a new political party and was charged, among other things, with e-mailing copies of his organization's founding principles.

“The Chinese government hopes these trials will be a deterrent,” says Bobson Wong of the Digital Freedom Network in Hackensack, New Jersey, which is compiling an electronic library of Chinese pro-democracy material (http://www.dfn.org/). “Their message is clear: If you use the Internet, don't talk about democracy.”

The coalition includes the American Physical Society, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Committee of Concerned Scientists, and the AAAS (publisher of Science). For details, see their Web pages.

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