A 25-year-old Chinese art student has been sentenced to nine years in prison for informing the Voice of America of anti-government demonstrations in the eastern city of Hangzhou last June, Chinese media reported Monday.
Although thousands of Chinese activists have been arrested and many sentenced to long terms since pro-democracy demonstrations were crushed in June, Zhang Weiping is the first student whose sentence has been publicized in the state-controlled media.
Monday's article in China Youth News reported that Zhang, of the Zhejiang Institute of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, spread "counterrevolutionary propaganda" by participating in a VOA call-in program June 6. It said he was sentenced over the weekend by a Hangzhou court.
Second Harsh Punishment
The sentence was the second harsh punishment given a Chinese accused of discussing pro-democracy activities with a U.S. broadcasting concern. The penalties are designed to discourage foreign coverage of the protest movement, especially by Voice of America, which broadcasts in China.
According to the journal, Zhang placed a collect call to the Washington-based show, reporting that students had marched to provincial government headquarters and demanded that the flag be flown at half-staff to mourn victims of the army assault on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing two days earlier.
Zhang also reportedly said Hangzhou residents contributed $2.5 million to the student democracy movement.
Listening to the program broadcast worldwide, the journal said, Zhang taped his remarks and gave a copy to his institute's radio station to air, creating a "very bad political influence."
The journal called Zhang's reports untrue.
Zhang confessed but defended the "counterrevolutionary motive of his activities," said the article. The nature of his defense was not indicated.
In July, a 42-year-old office worker from Dalian was sentenced to 10 years in prison for telling an ABC crew that 20,000 people were killed in the Beijing military assault June 3-4. He was found guilty of "counterrevolutionary rumormongering."