Citizen journalist Huang Qi arrested during party plenum
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns yesterday’s arrest of Huang Qi, the founder and director of the human rights news website 64Tianwang, and the previous day’s arrest of Liu Feiyue, the founder of the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website. Both of these citizen journalists were arrested in still unknown circumstances. RSF calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
Based in Chengdu, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, Huang suddenly stopped sending messages yesterday evening, according to a report on the Voice of America website. A 64Tianwang reporter said his family contacted the local police, who said he had been arrested by other police officers but did specify the unit or department responsible, or the reason for his arrest.
A photo posted online shows the inside of Huang’s home with objects scattered on the floor, suggesting that it was searched by the police.
Several possible reasons for his arrest have been mentioned. In an interview earlier yesterday for Radio Free Asia, Huang said he had refused to respond to a summons from the authorities.
VOA suggested his arrest might be linked to the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee plenum currently taking place in Beijing. The authorities often arrest bloggers and human rights activists when major official events are taking place in order to prevent coverage of unexpected demonstrations by members of the public, especially those with grievances.
Clear information is similarly unavailable about Liu Feiyue’s arrest on 23 October in the northern province of Hebei or where he is now being held. Some anonymous Chinese sources suggested that his arrest might also be linked to the Central Committee plenum.
“We call on the authorities to release Huang Qi and Liu Feiyue and all their detained colleagues without delay ,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
“The police must stop harassing citizen journalists and must respect the rule of law, which differs from using the law to rule inasmuch as the former is compatible with China’s constitution. We demand explanations for these two arrests, which have all the hallmarks of abductions.”
The ruling Communist Party has repeatedly tried to intimidate both Huang, who was awarded RSF’s Cyber-Freedom Prize in 2004, and his reporters. He was last arrested at his home on 19 September, when the authorities seized his mobile phone and other electronic equipment and held him for more than 24 hours.
Five women citizen journalists who report for 64Tianwang were kidnapped by the police while the G20 summit was under way in early September in the southeastern city of Hangzhou. RSF continues to call for their release and the withdrawal of all the charges against them.
The 64Tianwang website is one of the 22 nominees for the 2016 RSF Press Freedom Prize.
China is ranked 176th out of 180 countries inRSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, while President Xi Jiping is on RSF’s list of press freedom predators.