China releases outspoken blogger after 6 months

AP News
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Posted: Aug 10, 2011 2:44 AM
China releases outspoken blogger after 6 months

A Chinese blogger and writer detained by police and charged with inciting subversion earlier this year has been released after nearly six months, his wife said Wednesday.

Ran Yunfei was among the first detained amid the government's recent expansive crackdown on dissent. He returned Tuesday night to his home in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern Sichuan province, said Wang Wei, his wife.

Wang declined to elaborate, indicating that Ran is probably restricted from speaking to the media.

"Yes, he has returned, but it's not convenient right now to accept interviews," she said by phone.

Ran was an uncompromising voice for free speech before he was taken away in late February as anonymous online calls circulated for Chinese to imitate the uprisings sweeping through North Africa and the Middle East.

Dozens of activists, lawyers and bloggers were questioned, detained or disappeared in the crackdown, including the activist artist Ai Weiwei and rights lawyer Teng Biao, who were later released without criminal charges.

In Ran's case, a court in Chengdu charged him in late March with inciting subversion of state power, but prosecutors recently sent the case back to police, said Ran's friend Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent rights lawyer who spoke briefly to the blogger on Wednesday morning.

Pu said Ran was released into "residential surveillance" for a six-month period, under which he is not allowed to leave home or meet people without permission, and he may not speak publicly. Still, Pu welcomed Ran's release as a sign the crackdown could be easing.

"Exercising control over these people showed the authorities' fear of the democratic revolutions in the northern Africa," Pu said. "Now that they have been released, it could mean that this wave of social control is slowly loosening or gradually receding."

Ran was a presence online for more than a decade. A self-described bookworm, he frequently criticized government policies and called for tolerance for dissenting views.

When domestic websites would no longer carry his outspoken views, he moved his blogs and Twitter posts to sites outside China, and many of his readers followed him, circumventing government blocks to read his material.

The writer's release comes at a time when other previously detained high-profile dissidents and activists have taken small steps to emerge from silence. Ai Weiwei has resumed posting on his Twitter page, calling this week for the release of Internet activist Wang Lihong, who is set to stand trial on Friday.

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Follow Gillian Wong on Twitter at http://twitter.com/gillianwong