Chinese celebrity blogger Liu Yanli, 45, was sentenced on April 24th to four years in prison by the Dongbao District Court in Jingmen city (Hubei province) on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.
In its verdict, the court considered that 28 articles posted by the blogger, which commented on Chinese President Xi Jinping, former premier Zhou Enlai and Chairman Mao Zedong, “insulted and attacked the Chinese Communist Party and its leaders”, “spread false information”, “maliciously speculated on hot topics in current affairs” and “created disturbances that damaged public order”.
“Freedom of the press is a right enshrined in Article 35 of the Chinese constitution and Liu Yanli should never have been punished for commentating on political issues,” said Cédric Alviani, the head of RSF’s East Asia bureau, who called on Beijing to “immediately free the blogger as well as all detained journalists and commentators in China”.
Liu Yanli, a bank clerk turned celebrity writer and blogger, has received two awards related to freedom of expression: Independent Chinese PEN Center’s Lin Zhao Memorial Award in 2018 and Humanitarian China’s Yu Zhijian Memorial Award in 2019.
Since 2016, Liu has been detained and released on multiple occasions, including a stay in “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL), an official euphemism for incommunicado detention at one of China’s “black sites” where detainees are deprived from their rights and face the risk of being tortured.
China ranks 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.