updated 7/1/2008 5:45:54 AM ET 2008-07-01T09:45:54

A reporter for a U.S.-based news Web site was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of illegal weapons possession and public disorder, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Sun Lin, who used the pen name Jie Mu, was arrested May 30, 2007, after authorities reportedly warned him to stop reporting on sensitive social and political issues for the Chinese-language Boxun Web site.

Authorities later accused him of being part of a gang that extorted money from unlicensed cab drivers.

Sun's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said his client denied all charges. Mo said the court in the eastern city of Nanjing violated procedure by failing to inform him three days in advance of announcing the verdict, barring family members from the hearing, and failing to deliver a copy of the verdict to the family.

"We defended Sun Lin as innocent and we certainly did not agree with the verdict," Mo said.

Mo said Sun had earlier vowed to appeal a guilty verdict. Mo said he would discuss the matter with Sun soon.

In an article posted on the North Carolina-based Web site, Boxun repeatedly says the arrests of Sun and his wife — who also contributed to the site — were orchestrated by officials seeking to silence their reporting. Sun's wife, He Fang, was also charged but released on a suspended sentence. The couple have a young daughter.

Explosive issues
China's Communist authorities control all licensed media and regularly crack down on publications or reporters who exceed their unwritten bounds for openness and criticism.

Since joining Boxun, Sun reported on crime, property disputes and police brutality — potentially explosive issues on which authorities carefully control reporting.

Sun had also reported from Beijing last year on issues including Olympic organizers' refusal to issue credentials for Boxun to cover the 2008 Summer Olympics. Boxun carries reports and essays on a wide range of issues rarely seen in the Chinese press, from cases of corruption and unrest to calls for greater democracy.

Chinese authorities block the site from being seen within China.

'Tragic example'
The verdict on Sun came amid what monitoring groups say are tightening controls over media and dissent ahead of next month's Beijing Olympics.

Boxun, along with journalist advocacy group Reporters Without Borders and rights group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, protested the sentence and called for Sun's immediate release.

"This is yet another tragic example of the government's inability to tolerate journalists who dare to report news freely, without constraint or censorship," Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments