China yesterday broadened its crackdown on political dissent to the Internet, slapping a two-year jail sentence on a software businessman for supplying e-mail addresses to a Washington-based electronic magazine.
Lin Hai, 30, was convicted of "subversion of state power" by providing the magazine, VIP Reference, with 30,000 addresses of Chinese computer users.
The sentence was greeted with defiance and derision by Richard Long, the magazine's editor.
"I want to make it clear to the Chinese government that they cannot stop us from a free exchange of views with the Chinese people," Mr. Long said in a telephone interview.
He derided the Chinese government for convicting Mr. Lin of subversion, the same charge used to convict three dissident leaders last month for trying to register an opposition political party.
"What's subversive about a mailing list of Chinese readers?" Mr. Long said.
Mr. Lin was fined $1,200, and his equipment - two desktop computers, a laptop computer, a modem and a telephone - were ordered confiscated.
A government Internet expert said that, as a private businessman, Mr. Lin had no right to peddle e-mail addresses without permission from their owners.
"Perhaps his intentions were good, but he doesn't have the right to violate my privacy," said Guo Liang of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, an elite think tank in Beijing.
Ye Ning, a strong advocate of Chinese democracy who lives in Washington and came to the United States from China in 1986, also mocked Beijing's decision to extend the crackdown to the Internet.
"Lin Hai did nothing wrong or subversive," he said. "Sometimes Beijing acts irrationally. As the Chinese saying goes, they kill a …