Chinese prosecutors have issued new indictments against New York Times researcher Zhao Yan, less than two months after the original charges against were dropped.
Hopes for the release of journalist Zhao Yan faded Monday after his lawyer announced that prosecutors had recently referred the case back to Beijing's court system. Unclear what charges the new indictment included, Zhao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping said the authorities had told him they were "resuming a criminal investigation."
Zhao, a researcher for the Beijing bureau of the New York Times, was charged in October 2004 with divulging state secrets and has been in police custody ever since. Officials appeared to blame him for a newspaper story correctly predicting that former President Jiang Zemin's would resign as the head of the country's armed forces. The charges carried the maximum penalty of death.
However, the charges were suddenly dropped in March prior to Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States, leading to expectations Zhao would be freed. Mo says he is now struggling to understand what the new charges may be.
"There is no regulation in Chinese law that provides for another appeal. So, if they do not have any new evidence and they make another appeal on Zhao Yan's case, it is illegal," he said.
The New York Times has repeatedly denied that Zhao did anything improper and has appealed for his release.
Zhao's case has received repeated attention from U.S. officials, including President Bush, who has raised the issue in meetings with Chinese leaders.
Chinese authorities have very broad and vague definitions of what is a state secret, and the law is used frequently against journalists who publicize bad news about the government. In addition, some journalists and academics have been jailed for printing information in foreign publications that had already been printed in Chinese documents.