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Freedom House Criticizes Sentence of New York Times Researcher Zhao Yan
Freedom House today expressed serious concern over the sentence meted out against New York Times researcher Zhao Yan, who was imprisoned in China in an investigation concerning the alleged leaking of state secrets.
A Beijing court sentenced him on August 24 to three years in prison on an unrelated fraud charge. The judicial process by which Zhao was convicted is emblematic of the problems China confronts in transforming from a system of "rule by law" to one of "rule of law."
Freedom House executive director Jennifer Windsor said, "The targeting of ZhaoYan and other media professionals represents an effort by the Chinese Communist Party to smother free expression."
A Freedom House special report issued earlier this year - "Speak No Evil" - on media controls in China detailed the elaborate system of control used by the Chinese authorities to limit and manipulate information.
Zhao Yan's secretive trial proceeding permitted only a single closed-door hearing at which no defense witnesses were allowed to testify.
Ms. Windsor added that "The trial has offered a window into China's corrupt judicial system, which is in urgent need of reform in order to ensure the rule of law for all of its citizens."
In September 2004, Zhao was imprisoned in an investigation about whether he leaked state secrets concerning former President Jiang Zemin's impending resignation from the important party Military Affairs Commission. Zhao was formally indicted on charges of leaking state secrets in December 2005.
Freedom House welcomed the dismissal of the state secrets charge against Zhao but expressed concern about the court's ruling that Zhao serve jail time on charges of fraud.
In its 2006 survey of press freedom, Freedom House rated China as having a "Not Free" environment for the media, ranking it in 177th place out of a total of 194 countries and territories worldwide. Freedom House also ranked China as "Not Free" in its annual survey of political and civil rights, Freedom in the World. The survey gave China a score of seven for political rights and a six for civil liberties. The lowest score possible in both categories is a seven.
Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored political rights and civil liberties in China since 1972 and press freedoms in China since 1980.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.