August 10, 2006

Appendix III: Details of Shi Tao's case

Shi Tao () was taken from his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi, by security police on November 24, 2004, and transported back to Changsha, Hunan, where he had served as a reporter and editor for the newspaper Contemporary Business News. Shi was subsequently formally arrested on state secrets charges stemming from the release of details from a top-secret memorandum issued by central Party and government departments entitled "A Notice Regarding Current Stabilizing Work."

In its case against Shi Tao, the prosecution charged that he improperly took notes on the memorandum as it was being discussed at an editorial meeting at the newspaper and then hours later sent an outline of its contents by email to be published in an overseas web forum under a pseudonym. Evidence presented during the trial included account verification information provided by Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd., which linked the IP address used to send the email from Shi Tao's personal Yahoo! email account to a computer located in the Contemporary Business News office.

The memorandum in question, which was in fact published in the "Democracy Forum" Internet newsletter in the name of "198964" on April 20, 2004, warned of activities by democracy activists around the fifteenth anniversary of the crackdown on the June 4 demonstrations, as well as the perennial threats posed by Falun Gong, the increasing number of mass incidents, and danger of harmful content on the Internet. Those in the media were particularly warned against voicing any opinions not in step with central government policies, and to report any suspected contacts between democracy activists and journalists.

During his trial, Shi did not deny sending details of the memorandum for publication overseas, and his defense attorney argued that he should not receive severe punishment because his actions resulted in no serious damage to the security or interests of the nation. However, the Changsha Intermediate People's Court, citing China's regulations on state secrets, rejected this argument and convicted Shi of the crime of "divulging state secrets abroad," sentencing him on April 27, 2005, to 10 years in prison, with subsequent deprivation of political rights for two years.

Shi appealed the verdict to the Hunan Higher People's Court, arguing in part that he had not been aware that the memorandum was classified and charging police with failing to adhere to legal procedures during his arrest. The Hunan court rejected Shi's arguments and upheld the original sentence on June 2, 2005. Shi is currently serving his sentence in Hunan province's Chishan Prison, and he is due for release on November 24, 2014.

Sources

Verdict:

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/china_law_prof_blog/files/ShiTao_verdict.pdf

Appeal Petition:

http://peacehall.com/news/gb/china/2005/05/200505201033.shtml

Democracy Forum post reprint (original appears unavailable):

http://cdjp.org/archives/gb/529.html