28 October 1997


RSF writes to U.S. President Bill Clinton regarding imprisonment of twelve journalists

Incident details


(RSF/IFEX) - The following is the full text of a letter sent by
Reporters sans frontieres to President of the United States of
America Bill Clinton, reminding him of the imprisonment of twelve
journalists in China and calling on him - on the occasion of
Chinese President Jiang Zemin's official visit to the U.S.A. - to
use his influence to secure the release of those journalists.

"Mr. Bill Clinton

President of the United States of America

White House

Washington, D.C.


"Paris, 24 October 1997


"During the official visit of Jiang Zemin, President of the
People's Republic of China, Reporters sans frontieres, an
independent organisation working to defend press freedom
worldwide, wishes to recall the situation of 12 journalists
imprisoned in China. All were sentenced for non-violent
activities and for the mere fact of doing their job according to
internationally accepted standards of professional conduct.
Some of these journalists are being held in unacceptable
conditions. Others are in poor health and are not receiving the
medical care they need.

"Gao Yu, of `Economic Weekly', was arrested on 2 October 1993 and
sentenced to six years' imprisonment. She is now detained in the
Yanqing hospital prison and is suffering from angina and
Meniere's syndrome, a disorder of the inner ear, caused by prison
conditions. On 12 January 1997 the authorities refused to grant
her parole on medical grounds: she has been told to `confess' to
her alleged crimes in exchange for her release. She has refused,
maintaining her innocence. We are extremely worried about her

"Another dissident, Wei Jingsheng, arrested on 1 April 1994 and
sentenced to 14 years in prison, has been suffering from a heart
disorder and high blood pressure for many years.

"We also wish to draw your attention to the case of journalist Ma
Tao, of `China Health Education News', who was arrested on 26
October 1992 and sentenced to six years in jail. She was accused
of passing a copy of a speech due to be given by Jiang Zemin a
week later to a Hong Kong newspaper. Her husband, Wu Shishen of
the Xinhua official news agency, is serving a life sentence for
the same offence.

"Other Chinese journalists in jail are Chen Yanbin, of `Iron
Currents', Liu Jingsheng of `Tansuo', Samdrup Tsering of `Qinghai
Patriotic Democracy Periodical', Sun Weibang of `Hailanghua',
Tenpa Kelsang of `Tibetan Language and Literature', Yu Dongye of
`Liuyang News', Zhang Yafei of `Iron Currents', and Liu Xiaobo.

"In many cases it is simply impossible to obtain information
about their place and conditions of detention.

"The United States is planning to sign new economic agreements
with the People's Republic of China. Reporters sans frontieres
believes that your country should not contribute to China's
economic development, however desirable this may be, without
demanding in exchange that China should respect human rights and
the right to inform and to be informed. We also call on you to
use your influence with Jiang Zemin to secure the immediate and
unconditional release of the 12 journalists currently in prison
in China.

"Yours faithfully,

"Robert Menard

General Secretary"


Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris, France
rsf (@) rsf.org

Fax:+33 1 45 23 11 51
More from China
  • Freedom on the Net 2018: China

    The level of internet freedom declined due to the new cybersecurity law which strengthened repressive restrictions on online activities.

  • Forbidden Feeds: Government Controls on Social Media in China.

    Based on extensive interviews with writers, poets, artists, activists, and others personally affected by the government’s grip on online expression, as well as interviews with anonymous employees at Chinese social media companies, the report lays bare the destructive impact of the Chinese government’s vision of “cyber sovereignty” on netizens who dare to dissent.

  • Ten-Year Edition: A Decade of Decline

    The general trend over the past 10 years has been bleak, with an overall negative trajectory for press freedom. The major turning point was the election of Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in 2012 and President of China in 2013.

More from Asia & Pacific


  • The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14

    Journalism in South Asia is far from an easy profession, as the 12th annual review of journalism in the region "The Campaign for Justice: Press Freedom in South Asia 2013-14" portrays. But this year's report also tells the story of the courage of South Asia's journalists to defend press freedom and to ensure citizens' right to information and freedom of expression in the face of increasing challenges to the profession and personal safety.

  • THE STORIES WOMEN JOURNALISTS TELL: Women in Media in South Asia

    The report is the first created by the South Asia Media Solidarity Network (SAMSN) looking specifically at the experience of women journalists in the South Asia sub-region