Shi Tao, the Chinese journalist who was jailed in 2005 for ‘leaking state secrets abroad’, has been released 15 months before the end of his 10 year sentence, according to PEN International.
“We welcome news of Shi Tao’s early release, at a time when there seem to be increasingly long shadows over freedom of expression in China,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, of the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee.
“Shi Tao has been one of our main cases since his arrest in 2004. He is an Honorary Member of almost a dozen PEN centres, and he was one of the the WiPC’s first and most significant digital media cases. Shi Tao’s arrest and imprisonment, because of the actions of Yahoo China, signalled a decade ago the challenges to freedom of expression of internet surveillance and privacy that we are now dealing with.”
Shi’s arrest in 2004 was the result of collusion between Yahoo and the Chinese state. The American company disclosed a number of Shi’s emails to the authorities, including one where he sent details of a government memo about restrictions on coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre to activists in the US.
Yahoo settled lawsuits in 2007 brought by the families of Shi and Wang Xiaoning, a dissident who was jailed after Yahoo Hong Kong disclosed the contents of his email to Chinese authorities.
Shi’s release comes just after the death of Yahoo Mail in China. The company shut down its email service last month, encouraging users to switch to Alibaba.