Journalist Criminally Charged After Exposing Corruption
Mainland Journalist Is Criminally Charged After Exposing Corruption
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the decision by the Chinese police to charge a journalist with disturbing public order after he exposed a Government official suspected of involvement in a corruption case.
Liu Hu, a journalist with the Guangdong-based newspaper New Express, wrote about the case on the internet using his real name. Liu was reportedly detained on August 23 in Chongqing by Beijing police officers. Police also ransacked his house and took away his computers and bank cards. His wife, Qin Ling, posted a message on her weibo, or microblog, confirming that Liu was charged on August 24 with disturbing public order.
Although Qin did not mention which corruption case was involved, it is widely believed that Liu was charged because he used his microblog on July 29 to expose a case that may have involved Ma Zhengqi when he was the vice mayor of Chongqing. Ma is the Vice Minister of State Administration for Industry and Commerce. According to Mainland media reports, a spokesperson for the State Administration for Industry and Commerce said the case had been reported to the SAIC management, but the spokesperson did not reveal the name of the manager involved.
Liu’s microblog account has been suspended by the Sina weibo website without any reason being given. As a result, all the cases that Liu has exposed in his microblog now cannot be accessed by the public.
According to Associated Press, Liu’s defence lawyer, Zhou Ze, queried whether police had abused their power by charging someone with disturbing public order simply for posting a message online.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “It seems that a new crackdown on online reports is gathering strength. Several people have already been detained and charged by police after they posted messages on the internet.”
The Chinese police have frequently used the criminal charge of “disturbing public order” to curb people’s freedom of speech on the internet.
Qin Zhihui, Yang Xiuyu and Zhou Lubao have been detained and accused by police of disseminating rumours in the internet. The Chinese police said the accused people had manipulated false reports and stirred up rumours in an effort to become well known.
One of the “rumours” that police cited concerned Lei Feng, a Chinese Communist Party national hero. Qin queried whether Lei existed.
The IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said: “It is disturbing that a chill has been imposed by police action, restraining freedom of speech on the internet across the country on the pretext of fighting rumours.”
We urge the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to look into the situation in China, where the internet has been widely adopted as a means of communication by the people. This is particularly important for people in a country that lacks genuine freedom of speech.