Beijing pursues relentless crackdown on free speech

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Chinese government’s harassment of the families in China of journalists and bloggers now living abroad and calls for an immediate end to a witchhunt in which dozens have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in posting an open letter online calling for President Xi Jinping’s resignation.

Chang Ping, a journalist who now lives in Germany, reported on 27 March that the authorities in the southern province of Sichuan had arrested his two brothers and his sister.The sister and one of the brothers were released yesterday.

“The police asked my family to contact me and demand that I immediately cease to publish any articles that criticise the Chinese Communist party,” Chang told the NGO China Change.

In an article published on 25 March, Chang condemned the journalist Jia Jia’s “abduction” by the authorities on 15 March, shortly after the anonymous open letter calling for President Xi’s resignation was posted online (read the letter in English on China Digital Times' website). Jia was finally released on 25 March.

Chang is respected in China for refusing to submit to censorship and for fighting doggedly for what he believes in, including press freedom. He left China in 2011 after being subjected to constant pressure from the Propaganda Department, and now works for the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

“This disgraceful witchhunt provides a direct insight into the Chinese regime’s dictatorial nature, but the universal silence on the part of European countries and the entire international community is even more shocking,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

Must we wait until foreign diplomats are arrested and charged with activities against the Communist Party in order to see a reaction? The United States and Germany have an overriding duty to ensure that the Chinese authorities guarantee the basic rights of people like Chang Ping and Wen Yunchao, instead of trampling on them, as they are now doing.

Also known as BeiFeng, Wen Yunchao is a well-known New York-based blogger and human rights defender whose parents and brother were arrested by the police in the southern province of Guangdong on 22 March, shortly after it was rumoured that Wen was the anonymous letter’s author.

Wen Yunchao (Beifeng), Chinese blogger and internet activist base in New York, Visiting scholar of Columbia University, launched a series of online campaigns in support of human rights and against Internet censorship. He was awarded the French Republic’s Human Rights Prize 2010 by the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights.

In all, more than 20 people have been arrested by police in the witchhunt that began on 15 March. Six of them are employees of Wujie News, the website where the open letter was initially posted.

China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 29.03.2016