Li Xinde, 61, an acclaimed investigative journalist and founder of China Public Opinion Surveillance Net, an anti-corruption news website established in 2003 but now shut down, was sentenced to five years in prison on 7th January 2021 by the Pizhou Municipal People's Court in the eastern province of Jiangsu after 15 months of detention. Li Xinde’s son, Li Chao, 36, was sentenced to a year in prison on the same charge of alleged “illegal business activity”.
“Reporting on corruption is not a crime and Li Xinde should never have been arrested in the first place, let alone receive such a harsh sentence”, says Cédric Alviani, head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia bureau, who denounces this “parody of justice” and calls for “the immediate release of Li Xinde and all other press freedom defenders detained in China”.
In recent weeks, the regime has sentenced two other independent journalists to heavy prison terms. On December 28th, lawyer-turned-journalist Zhang Zhan, 37, was sentenced to four years in prison for reporting live from the city of Wuhan during the Covid-19 outbreak in February. On January 8th, a former Caijing magazine and Tencent Finance reporter Zhang Jialong, 32, was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for "picking quarrels and provoking troubles" after being in police custody for more than 17 months.
China ranked 177th out of 180 in the 2020 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world’s biggest captor of journalists with at least 120 detained according to the most recent count made by RSF.