China: RSF calls for release of journalist kidnapped in Laos and charged with “subversion of state power”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of Chinese journalist Yang Zewei, who was kidnapped in Laos three months ago, and is detained in China under the charge of “subversion”, which bears a life sentence.
Chinese journalist, political commentator, and press freedom defender Yang Zewei, also known under the pen name Qiao Xinxin was kidnapped from his residence in Vientiane, capital of Laos, around 31 May 2023. Detained at Hengyang detention centre in Hunan province (southern China), Yang has been reportedly charged with “subversion of state power”, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of a life in prison.
According to a witness, two Laotian police officers and six Chinese agents raided Yang’s home in Laos's capital Vientiane, where he was living in exile. Prior to his kidnapping, Yang claimed to be under Chinese police surveillance while his family back home in China received threats.
“It is appalling to see that China, one of the worst perpetrators in terms of transnational repression against journalists, does not hesitate to resort to kidnapping even outside its borders with the active complicity of other authoritarian regimes. We urge democracies to build up pressure to secure Yang’s release alongside all other journalists and press freedom defenders detained in the country.
Over the past years, Yang Zewei was working as a journalist in the city of Guangzhou, in southern China, and also served as a contributor to Radio Free Asia, a media funded by the US Congress. In March 2023, he also launched the online campaign “Ban Great Firewall” (also known as “BanGFW”) advocating for the end of internet censorship in China.
This is not the first kidnapping conducted by the regime abroad. In 2015, Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, the co-founder of a Hong Kong-based publishing house Causeway Bay Books that specialised in investigative stories on Chinese leaders, was also kidnapped in Thailand. Gui is still being detained after being sentenced in 2020 to ten years in prison for “espionage”.
Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took power in 2012, he has been conducting a large-scale crusade against journalism as revealed in December 2021 RSF’s report The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, which details Beijing’s efforts to control information and media within and outside its borders.
China ranks 179th out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world's largest captor of journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 113 detained.