China’s anti-corruption agency urged to free newly detained journalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on China’s new anti-corruption agency to release the independent journalist Chen Jieren and five close relatives and assistants, who have been held incommunicado for the past two weeks. A critic of abuses by Chinese Communist Party officials, Chen is accused of extortion.
Chen was arrested at his home in Shaoyang, in the southern province of Hunan, some time between 4 and 6 July in an investigation by the State Supervisory Commission, the central anti-corruption agency that was created in January. His wife, his two brothers and two people who help him were also arrested.
According to the Public Security Bureau in the nearby city of Chenzhou, he is accused of “extortion,” “blackmail” and “illegal operations,” and is currently the subject of "residential surveillance at a designated location," a Chinese government euphemism for detention in one of its black prisons.
Two Beijing-based lawyers, Tong Zongjin and Zhang Lei, asked to see him but their request was denied.
“The arrests of Chen Jieren, his family and his assistants shows that the newly created State Supervisory Commission is in reality another tool for use by President Xi Jinping in persecuting journalists,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau. “We call on the Chinese authorities to free Chen, his family and his assistants at once.”
Chen has a law degree from the prestigious University of Tsinghua and is a recognized journalist, who has worked in the past for such leading media outlets as China Youth Daily, China Philanthropy Times and People’s Daily.
He was arrested shortly after questioning the competence and honesty of two party officials. His WeChat account, Jieren Guancha (Jieren Watch), has been deactivated since his arrest.
Ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index, China continues to be one of the biggest jailers of journalists and defenders of the freedom to inform.