Du Daobin is one of the earliest cyber dissident writers in China. By the time of his detention in October 2003, he had published tens of articles on the internet at home and abroad. In June 2004, he was charged with “inciting to subvert state power” and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Instead of serving his prison sentence immediately, it was postponed while he spent four years under probation.
In June of 2008, on the eve of the Summer Olympics to be held in China, the authorities accused Du of disobeying the rules of probation, as he had continued to write articles critical of the regime. Thus, after four years of probation, Mr. Du was sent to serve his 3-year prison term. While in prison, he was subjected to physical and psychological torture and was held under the most stringent control. He was forced to sit on a low bench for two months, which led to cardiac prolapse. After this incident, due to malnutrition and potassium deficiency, he lost his ability to walk and for a long time he was dependent on a wheelchair. Although today he is free and able to walk, Du remains under close watch. Who is this man that China views as such a threat, and what is it about his writings that has the government so nervous?
Du Daobin was born in Wuhan, Hubei Province in 1964. Formerly an employee of the district government, Du was a firm believer of communism. He read the works of Marx, Lenin, and Mao Zedong and took up writing poetry. After the tragic events of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Du sympathized with the students and strongly opposed the killing that occurred. This marked an ideological and political turning point for Mr. Du. Before officially becoming a Communist Party member, he retracted his application. He began to write works in support of the democracy movement and since 1997 he has been exploring the ideas of liberalism and promoting China’s path to democracy.
Originally just a supporter of the movement, as Du became more outspoken, he too became a victim of the government’s crackdown on freedom of speech. Starting in 2001, Du published articles on a number of Chinese websites, calling for fair treatment of city and rural dwellers, social security and fair wages for farmers, and for the abolishment of the discriminatory policies of usury towards farmers. He also published articles on foreign websites, severely criticizing Chinese Communist Party ideals and the one-party dictatorship system and policy.
Despite his sentencing in 2003, Du continued to write under a pseudonym and from January 2005 to June 2008, he wrote over 100 articles for Laogai Research Foundation’s Observe China website. His most influential writings from this period are those advocating for the installation of an election system in China, including: Chinese People Should Try by Every Means to Be Elected As Representatives, We Simply Can’t Do Without People’s Representatives, Indirect Democracy and Deputy Representatives: Shortcomings and Questions, Various Nonsense That Attempts to Prevent the Installation of Election in China, Peoples’ Sovereignty Dwells in Just and Fair Election, Direct Election and Social Stability: Are They In Sharp Contradiction? When Can China Kick Off Direct Election? These articles approach many aspects of the possible establishment of direct election in China or the modification of the existing People’s Representative system. They have been widely reposted after they were first published on Observe China. He continues to be an outspoken critic of China’s internet surveillance, oppression of freedom of speech, and the government’s handling of many social issues.
Du Daobin is no criminal, yet he has been continually persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party for expressing his ideas and encouraging public discussion about democratic reform. Even though Du was released in 2010, he is not really free. He is not able to use his real name to publish articles domestically or internationally; he is not allowed to leave China and he must report to the police department if he wishes to leave his city. Du’s guests are tightly regulated, questioned, and placed under surveillance. The Public Security Bureau has threatened many times that they “may hinder his child’s educational advancement,” and on many occasions they have intercepted Du’s mail and royalty checks. His internet is constantly monitored, the speed of which is so slow that it sometimes takes an hour to load one page, and he constantly gets redirected to other webpages. He has not had a job since he was set free and thus does not have a stable income. As a result of this harassment and hardship, Du’s wife has moved out and left him solely responsible for raising their child.
This is why Du Daobin has taken part in the lawsuit against Cisco Systems, Inc. currently pending in Federal Court in Maryland. Through “Golden Shield” network and internet surveillance technology provided by Cisco, China’s Ministry of Public Security has been able to monitor and track down dissidents like Du who dare to exercise freedom of speech against the Chinese Communist Party’s wishes. Since filing the lawsuit, he has come under even closer scrutiny- Du was interrogated earlier this month by officials from the Ministry of Public Security about his involvement in the Du v. Cisco.
As I have said before, Du Daobin’s safety depends, in no small part, on the fact that the world is watching. Keep watching, and let Cisco know you are are watching by signing the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition– Tell Cisco: Stop helping China abuse human rights!
This post was written by the Laogai Research Foundation.