China: five years after Liu Xiaobo’s death, at least 15 press freedom defenders at risk of dying in prison

Five years after the passing of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize and RSF Award laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died of an untreated cancer during his detention, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) publishes a list of 15 press freedom defenders who are in danger of losing their lives if not immediately released from prison.

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Update - 30th July 2022

Jiang Yefei,  political cartoonist, has been released from jail after serving his sentence.

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As 13th of July marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Liu Xiaobo, Nobel Peace Prize and RSF Press Freedom Award laureate, who was the embodiment of the fight for freedom of press and expression in China and who died of cancer after being denied treatment in detention, RSF publishes a list of 15 press freedom defenders currently detained in China who are in danger of losing their lives if not immediately released.

Journalists and press freedom defenders detained in China are almost systematically subjected to mistreatment and denial of medical care,” says Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia Bureau head, Cédric Alviani who urges democracies toto build up pressure to compel China to respect international law and to secure the immediate release of all of them before it’s too late”.

RSF has recently published an unprecedented investigative report entitled ‘The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China’, which reveals the campaign of repression led by Beijing against journalism and the right to information worldwide.

China ranks 175th out of 180 countries in the 2022 RSF World Press Freedom Index and detains at least 123 journalists and press freedom defenders according to RSF’s last count.

 

The 15 most threatened Chinese press freedom defenders in detention

Yiu Mantin (Yao Wentian)

  • Age: 81
  • Occupation: Founder of Morning Bell Press publishing house
  • City of detention: Dongguan (Guangdong Province)
  • Sentence: Ten years in prison for “smuggling of prohibited products” (May 2014).
  • Cause: Attempting to publish a book about President Xi Jinping.
  • Health condition: Asthmatic, heart condition, prostate cancer and hepatitis B; suffered five strokes, despite which his medical parole applications were denied; no further information since November 2017.

Ren Zhiqiang

  • Age: 71
  • Occupation: Political commentator
  • City of detention: Beijing
  • Sentence: 18 years in prison for “corruption” (September 2020)
  • Cause: Criticising President Xi Jinping’s response to Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Health condition: The length of the prison term for his age could be equivalent to a death sentence.

Qin Yongmin

  • Age: 68
  • Occupation: Political commentator and founder of China Human Rights Watch and Rose China newsletter.
  • City of detention: Wuhan (Hubei Province)
  • Sentence: 13 years in prison for “subversion of state power” (July 2018).
  • Cause: Suggesting the idea of a peaceful transition to a democracy that is respectful of human rights, including freedom of the press.
  • Health condition: Severely weakened by 20 years of detention and labour camps in previous decades, he fainted during his trial. His health deteriorated further in 2019.

Lu Jianhua (Wen Yu)

  • Age: 62
  • Occupation: Political commentator for CCTV, Phoenix TV, Singapore Strait Times
  • City of detention: Yanjiao (Hebei Province)
  • Sentence: 20 years in prison for “disclosing state secrets” (December 2006).
  • Cause: Commenting on the economic, political, and social situation in China. 
  • Health condition: Deteriorating health; authorities refused a request for medical release.

Huang Qi

  • Age: 59
  • Occupation: Founder of information website 64 Tianwang
  • City of detention: Bazhong (Sichuan Province)
  • Sentence: 12 years in prison for “disclosing state secrets abroad” (July 2019).
  • Cause: Giving a voice to victims of abuse under the Chinese state apparatus.
  • Health condition: Heart and liver complications resulting from eight years in prison and labour camps; suffered assault and sustained injuries.

Gui Minhai (Michael Gui)

  • Age: 58
  • Occupation: Principal shareholder of Causeway Bay Bookstore and Mighty Current Publishing House
  • City of detention: Ningbo (Zhejiang Province)
  • Sentence: Ten years in prison for “illegal dissemination of classified information abroad” (February 2020); detained since 2015.
  • Cause: Attempting to publish a book on the private life of President Xi Jinping
  • Health condition: Symptoms of severe neurological disease; prevented from consulting the doctor at his embassy (Swedish citizen since 1996).

Yang Hengjun

  • Age: 57
  • Occupation: Australian political commentator
  • City of detention: Beijing
  • Sentence: Charged with “espionage” (maximum sentence: life in prison). Yang's trial was secretly held in May 2021, but no verdict has yet been published. 
  • Cause: Writing several articles critical of the regime, including in the prominent international affairs magazine The Diplomat.
  • Health condition: Tortured in detention. 

Jiang Yefei

  • Age: 55
  • Occupation: Cartoonist for information website Boxun
  • City of detention: Chongqing
  • Sentence: Six years in prison for “incitement to subversion” and “illegal border crossing” (July 2018).
  • Cause: Drawing satirical cartoons depicting human rights violations in China.
  • Health condition: Reportedly tortured and blinded in one eye from lack of access to medical care.

Ilham Tohti

  • Age: 52
  • Occupation: Founder of information website Uyghur Online
  • City of detention: Urumqi (Xinjiang Autonomous Region)
  • Sentence: Life in prison for “separatism” (September 2014)
  • Cause: Criticising the government
  • Health condition: Heart condition and lung problems, weight loss; no information since late 2017.

Zhang Haitao

  • Age: 51
  • Occupation: Political commentator for Boxun, Radio Free Asia and Voice of America
  • City of detention: Shaya (Xinjiang Autonomous Region)
  • Sentence: 19 years in prison for “incitement to subversion” and "disclosing state secrets abroad" (January 2016).
  • Cause: Criticising the actions of the Beijing regime on social media and in interviews with foreign media.
  • Health condition: Beaten and forced to wear heavy chains around his ankles for six months; victim of food deprivation; no information since April 2018. 

Wu Gan

  • Age: 50
  • Occupation: Political commentator and human rights defender 
  • City of detention: Qingliu (Fujian Province)
  • Sentence: Eight years in prison for “subversion of state power” (December 2017).
  • Cause: Making humorous comments about corruption amongst Communist Party officials.
  • Health condition: Victim of torture and sleep deprivation; lost 15 kilograms in detention; no further information since March 2019.

Chen Jieren

  • Age: 50
  • Occupation: Freelance journalist
  • City of detention: Shanghai
  • Sentence: 15 years in prison for  “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and of “extortion and blackmail” (April 2020).
  • Cause: Reporting on corrupt officials in Hunan province.
  • Health condition: No information about his health condition.

Cheng Lei

  • Age: 47
  • Occupation: Australian Business news anchor at China Global Television Network (CGTN)
  • City of detention: Beijing
  • Sentence: Accused of “illegally supplying state secrets overseas" (maximum sentence: life in prison). Cheng stood trial behind closed doors in March 2021, but no verdict has yet been published. 
  • Cause: No details about the accusations were provided by the Chinese regime.
  • Health condition: According to her family, her health has deteriorated while in detention. 

Gulmira Imin

  • Age: 44
  • Occupation: Former administrator of news site Salkin
  • City of detention: Urumqi (Xinjiang Autonomous Region)
  • Sentence: Initially given a life sentence for “separatism” and "disclosing state secrets abroad" (April 2010). Her sentence was reportedly reduced to 19 years and 8 months in prison in 2017.
  • Cause: Criticising the government
  • Health condition: Before her trial in 2010, she was the victim of ill-treatment and torture; no information since 2010.

Zhang Zhan

  • Age: 38
  • Occupation: Journalist and former lawyer
  • City of detention: Shanghai
  • Sentence: Four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (December 2020).
  • Cause: Reporting on the first weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan.
  • Health condition: Her health has worsened considerably due to a partial hunger strike and mistreatment while in detention. 
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175/180
Score : 25.17
Publié le 13.07.2022