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China frees two jailed dissidents: rights groups

world Updated: Mar 14, 2009 09:26 IST

AFP
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Two Chinese dissidents have been freed after serving eight-year jail sentences for subverting the state, rights groups said.

Yang Zili, 37, and Zhang Honghai, 36, were members of the New Youth Study Group, a discussion group that published articles online calling for political reform and democracy.

They were both freed on Thursday but are subject to a two-year ban on speaking to foreign media or rights organisations without official approval, the New York-based Human Rights in China said in a statement late on Friday.

Yang said in court he had suffered severe abuse in detention, including beatings and electric shocks to the genitals, according to the statement.

Computer engineer Yang and freelance writer Zhang were arrested in 2001, accused of "intending to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party's leadership" and sentenced two years later to eight years in jail.

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders welcomed Yang's release, but called for an investigation into his treatment while in jail.

"China continues to be an enemy of the Internet and one of the world's biggest prisons for government critics, whether journalists or ordinary Internet users," it said.

Two other members of the New Youth Study Group were sentenced to 10 years' detention and remain in prison.