Shi Tao

Chinese freelance journalist, writer and poet, Shi Tao was arrested on 24 November 2004. His case is particularly notable due to the fact that information provided by Internet Service Provider Yahoo! led to his conviction.

In April 2004, the Chinese government released the Number 11 document entitled ‘A notice concerning the work for maintaining stability’. The document warned journalists that overseas pro-democracy Chinese dissidents may come back to mainland China during the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989 on June 4th and try to disrupt the country’s political stability. It asked all news media to not report anything regarding the so-called ‘June 4th event’. However, Shi, who was working for the Contemporary Business News in Hunan Province, used his private Yahoo! email account and sent a brief of the document to an overseas website called Asia Democracy Foundation. 

On 27 April 2005, Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights by the Changsha Municipal Intermediate People’s Court.


Having been incarcerated in Chishan Prison, Shi Tao began to suffer from serious respiratory problems as a result of forced labour. In April 2006, his health was reported to have deteriorated further and he was apparently suffering from a heart condition, an ulcer and skin problems. In June 2007, Shi Tao was transferred from Chishan Prison to Deshan Prison, where the conditions are reportedly better. According to his mother, who visited him shortly after he was transferred, he is no longer subject to hard physical labour and as a result, his health has reportedly improved, although his stomach problems remain. He is currenly working as a tracer in a machinery plant in prison for four days a week with regular working hours and is also allowed to write to his family.


Around 15 November 2007, Shi Tao settled a lawsuit on Yahoo Inc. out of court, which he claimed Yahoo Inc. in helping Chinese government to arrest dissident writers, including himself.


Shi Tao was born in Yanchi County, Wuzhong, Nignxia province in 1968. He studied at East China Normal University in Shanghai. He graduated in July of 1991, and was married in 1994.

On 18 October 2005, the Committee to Protect Jounalists announced that Shi was one of four winners of the 2005 CPJ International Press Freedom Awards. The Committee’s website states he will be officially presented with the award when he is released from prison. In March 2006, he was given the Vasyl Stus Award, and on 4 June 2007, the 18th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Crackdown, he was given the Golden Pen of Freedom Award by the World Association of Newspapers.

Shi Tao is an Honorary Member of  many PEN centres across the globe, including Sydney, German, Canada, New Zealand, Swiss Italian, American, USA and English PEN.

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