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NYT researcher trial in China expected by March

The trial of a Chinese researcher charged with exposing state secrets while working for the New York Times is expected before the end of March, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Zhao Yan worked for the paper before his arrest in September 2004. He faces 10 years in jail or more after security officials charged him with telling the paper details of rivalry between China’s outgoing Communist Party leader, Jiang Zemin, and new leader Hu Jintao.

“The court should hear the case and hand down an initial verdict before March 20, though the date has not been set for sure,” Zhao’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told reporters in Beijing.

Mo said that represented a delay of one month, after the court decided to postpone proceedings to give it more time to subpoena witnesses and re-examine evidence at the request of the defense.

Zhao, 43, worked as a muck-raking reporter for Chinese publications, often exposing official corruption and abuse of farmers, before he joined the Times. He won the Reporters Without Borders 2005 prize in December for journalists who have “shown a strong commitment to press freedom.”

His arrest was the most prominent of a series of jailings of Chinese reporters that have stoked international criticism of the country’s media controls.

Last April, China arrested Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based reporter for Singapore’s Straits Times, on spying charges. The same month, a Chinese reporter, Shi Tao, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for “revealing state secrets” after he sent propaganda department directives to an overseas Web site.

Zhao also faces a lesser charge of fraud.


His lawyer is well-known for taking up sensitive political cases that other attorneys are loath to touch, such as those involving people who took part in the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square bloodily put down by the army.

Though most cases he accepts are judged guilty in a country with no independent judiciary and where the courts hand down decisions mandated by the government, Mo is undeterred.

“In the long term, I think history will be the best judge of these people,” said Mo, drawing the comparison with Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and former South Korea leader Kim Dae-jung, both of whom spent years in jail.

In China, Mo told the Foreign Correspondents Club, more than 70 percent of criminal trials do not even have a defense lawyer present, as lawyers are either scared to take them or consider the financial reward insufficient.

Police also have the power to search anyone and anywhere without a warrant and often demand secretaries at law firms hand over copies of defense materials, he added.

This week, human rights activist John Kamm of the U.S.-based Dui Hua Foundation said 99 percent of people tried in China for “endangering state security” were found guilty — the highest conviction rate of any crime in the country.

Date posted: February 22, 2006 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 2523