Shi Tao

*** UPDATE: In May 2010, Shi Tao was transferred to Yinchaun Prison in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. It is believed that the improvements in his prison conditions, which have in turn improved his health, are a result of continued international pressure.***

*** UPDATE: Yahoo has settled a US lawsuit brought by the families of Shi Tao and his co-defendant Wang Xiaoning, who were gaoled for their writings after Yahoo revealed their identities to the Chinese government. The settlement was announced six days after Yahoo executives were summoned to testify before a Congressional Committee concerning misleading statements that Yahoo had previously made to Congress about its role in the matter. The settlement is an important gesture, but PEN continues to be deeply concerned for the health and well-being of Shi Tao who remains imprisoned.***

*** UPDATE: PEN welcomes the news that 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 last month, he is no longer subject to hard physical labour, and they are able to hold hands since they are no longer separated by a glass window. He is reportedly allowed to read newspapers and listen to the radio. As a result, his health has greatly improved, although his stomach problems remain. His family believe these improvements are a result of international pressure on his behalf. ***

Shi TaoProfession: Poet, freelance writer and journalist

Date of birth: 25 July 1968

Date of arrest: 24 November 2004

Cause of arrest: An article posted on the internet that was later alleged to have revealed state secrets. What the article in fact contained was an official memorandum to the Chinese media concerning coverage of the 15th anniversary of the military crackdown in Tiananmen Square. 

It is believed that the internet service provider Yahoo! provided Chinese police with detailed information that enabled them to link Shi Tao’s personal email account and the specific message containing the alleged ‘state secret’ to the address of his computer.

Charge: Suspicion of illegally providing state secret overseas (Article 111 of 1997 Criminal Code).

Sentence: In April 2005, sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 2 years deprivation of political rights by the Changsha Municipal Intermediate People’s Court.

Health concerns: Since his transfer to Deshan Prison in June 2007, his living conditions and health have reportedly improved, and he is no longer required to do hard physical labour.

Other information: Recipient of CPJ’s 2005 International Press Freedom Award, PEN America’s 2006

Freedom to Write Award, WAN’s 2007 Golden Pen of Freedom

Honorary member of: English, Sydney, German, Canadian, New Zealand, Swiss Italian and USA PEN.

Writing sample: From ‘Coming back to life: written for the ‘Tiananmen mother”. Translated by Frances Wood.

“I creep into the ear of the deaf man

And wake him with a burst of rifle-fir

I creep in front of the blind man’s eyes

To paint him a picture of death

I creep amongst shadows

To stroke the cold palpitating heart

I creep amongst the crowds in the supermarket

To find myself a body to keep me from the cold

I creep onto the roof of the deserted classroom

To learn what the truth sounds like

I creep in front of my lover’s window

To watch her dancing with her thoughts”

Shi Tao is one of the 50 symbolic cases chosen for inclusion in ‘Beyond Bars: 50 Years of the PEN Writers in Prison Committee‘, a special issue of Index on Censorship (issue 04/2010) produced in partnership with English PEN to mark the 50th anniversary of the WiPC (pp194-197).

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