Charges against Zhao were dropped in March prior to the visit to the United States of Chinese President Hu Jintao. The U.S. government has repeatedly lobbied for the journalist’s release. But contrary to expectations, Zhao has remained jailed.
The researcher was detained in September 2004 in connection with a Times article correctly predicting the retirement of former president Jiang Zemin from his final government position at the head of the Central Military Commission. Zhao was held for months without access to a lawyer, and prosecutors have never presented any evidence of his involvement in fraud or leaking state secrets.
The Times has said that Zhao provided no state secrets to the newspaper.
“We condemn the outrageous and unjust imprisonment of our colleague,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “The jailing of ZhaoYan not only has a chilling effect on foreign media reporting in China, it illustrates the dangers that all Chinese journalists routinely face in doing their jobs”
At least 32 journalists were imprisoned in China at year’s end in 2005, according to CPJ research. The list includes two journalists employed by foreign news publications: Zhao and Straits Times correspondent Ching Cheong.