Professor Sun Wenguang, 84, was arrested at his home in Jinan City, Shandong province, on Wednesday, August 1, 2018 in the middle of a live telephone interview with Voice of America (VOA) Mandarin. The news channel is popular with the Chinese community abroad. Even though it is censored in China, Voice of America’s YouTube account has nearly 700,000 subscribers, more than triple the subscribers of the English channel.
Retired from Shandong University where he taught physics and economics until 1994, Professor Sun is known for his assertive public interventions against censorship and propaganda. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) demands his immediate release and stresses that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are explicitly written in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
A chilling message to Chinese overseas
"This arrest is a chilling message from Beijing to its people and the Chinese community overseas that the regime is ready to do anything to silence independent voices,” says Cedric Alviani, the director of RSF's East Asia bureau. “Pressure on journalists’ sources is a new strategy of the Chinese government to control its image abroad.”
In its latest report released in February, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China (FCCC) denounced the escalating steadfastness of Xi Jinping's regime to prevent the foreign press from doing its job by intimidating, attacking and imprisoning sources.
Professor Sun was sent to an internment camp during the Cultural Revolution, and he served four years in prison between 1978 and 1982 for criticizing President Mao Zedong. He signed "Charter 08," a petition that called for democratic reforms in China including freedom of the press, which was started by the Nobel Peace Prize and RSF award laureate Liu Xiaobo who died in detention last year.
Ranked 176th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, China is currently holding more than 50 journalists and bloggers in its prisons.