Human Rights Watch is urging major Internet service providers such as Microsoft, America On-Line, and AT&T to publicly condemn the two-year jail sentence handed down earlier today to Lin Hai, a computer company owner in Shanghai.

Lin Hai was tried on December 4 in a thirty-minute trial; on January 20, he was found guilty of "incitement to subvert the state" and sentenced for providing some 30,000 Chinese e-mail addresses to a U.S.-based on-line magazine. The magazine, V.I.P Reference News, is run by Chinese dissidents in Washington.

"This harsh punishment reflects the Chinese government's anxiety about growing use of the Internet, and its own inability to control information flows," said Sidney Jones, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "It warrants a strong response, not just from human rights organizations but from the computer software industry as well, particularly from companies trying to expand the market for Internet usage." Jones said that Human Rights Watch hoped to see a public statement on the Lin Hai case from industry giants like Microsoft.

Lin Hai's case follows a series of recent attempts by the Chinese government to step up monitoring of e-mail communications. Chinese authorities control access to the World Wide Web via the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. They routinely block access to the web sites of many foreign media and some human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch said the arrest and sentencing of Lin Hai was a clear violation of freedom of expression, a right guaranteed not only by a major treaty that China has just signed, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but also by the Chinese constitution.

For further information, contact:
Mike Jendrzejczyk (Washington, DC) +1 202 371-6599 x113
Sidney Jones (New York) +1 212 216-1228
Jagdish Parikh (New York) +1 212 216-1214