Reporters Without Borders condemns this week’s arbitrary arrest of Yang Dongying, the latest victim of the Chinese government’s systematic persecution of citizen-journalists working for 64Tianwang (64Skynet), a news website run by the cyber-dissident Huang Qi.
Arrested in the eastern province of Zhejiang on 24 June, Yang Dongying has been charged with “picking a quarrel and making trouble” because she criticized the methods used by the Zhejiang police to extract a confession from her 13-year-old son, who has since been hospitalized. Earlier this month, the police interrogated her about her links with other 64Tianwang journalists including Wang Jing and Zhang Jixin, who are currently detained, and with Huang Qi. “The crackdown on journalists continues in China even as Chinese officials are being received with great pomp in Washington by their US business partners and Premier Li Keqiang prepares to attend a China-EU summit in Brussels,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “The targeted arrests of 64Tianwang reporters testifies to the sensitivity of the stories covered by this news website. We demand the release of these journalists, who are being held arbitrarily, and we urge the authorities to implement China’s constitution, which guarantees the right of its citizens to freedom of information.” Yang is the latest in a long list of 64Tianwang journalists and human rights activities to be detained. They include citizen-journalist Wang Jing, who was arrested in the northeastern province of Jilin in January on a charge of disturbing public order. Her mother says she has become critically ill in detention. At the same time, her daughter has begun to develop symptoms of autism since her arrest. Her lawyer has submitted several requests for her release on bail that have been rejected by the prosecutor. Wu Youming, a journalist arrested on 26 January, pleaded not guilty to charges of extortion and blackmail when he was tried behind closed doors on 4 June in Wuxue, in the east-central province of Hubei. Requesting his immediate release, his lawyer, Li Jinglin urged the court to respect his rights and dignity. Lian Huanli, another 64Tianwang volunteer reporter, was arrested in late March on a charge of being a prostitute’s client and was sentenced to a year in prison. Ever since the 2013 earthquake in Sichuan province, he had distinguished himself by his defence of the rights of earthquake victims in Lushan district. Zhang Jixin, a 64Tianwang activist and reporter in Jilin province, has been held since 26 April on charges of “demonstrating with the aim of disturbing public order” and “provocation.” The police confiscated her computer, mobile phone and more than 400 pages of reporting at the time of her arrest. Regarded by the government as subversive, above all because of its coverage of human rights violations, 64Tianwang was the target of a series of cyber-attacks last September. Founder Huang Qi has served two jail terms, one for posting articles about the Tiananmen Square massacre and one on a charge “possessing state secrets” in connection with his coverage of the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. Ranked 176th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, China is the world’s biggest prison for news providers. Those detained include Gao Yu, a journalist who was awarded UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano Prize in 1997. She was sentenced to seven years in prison in April.