Zhang Jialong, a former journalist known for his commitment against censorship, was taken by the police on August 12th in Guiyang City (Guizhou province). The day after, he was charged with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, an accusation often used by the Chinese regime against journalists and their sources and which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
“This unfounded arrest demonstrates the Chinese regime’s utter disrespect towards critical voices,” says Cedric Alviani, the head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia bureau, urging for “the immediate release of Zhang Jialong and all other journalists detained in China.”
In 2008, Zhang reported on the melamine-laced baby formula scandal that caused the death of six Chinese toddlers and made 300,000 ill, including 54,000 hospitalized. In 2011, he was detained for over 70 hours by the police. For what many believe was due to his coverage on the abrupt demolition by the authorities of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s workshop in Shanghai.
Zhang, a former journalist with financial news outlet Caijing and former editor at Chinese Internet conglomerate Tencent, gained exposure in 2014 when, during former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to China, he publicly asked for the visitor’s help to "tear down” the Great Firewall of censorship. He was subsequently fired from his job at Tencent and has since been unable to find stable work.
At least 113 journalists and bloggers are currently jailed in life-threatening conditions in China. The country is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.