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March 26, 2020

Coronavirus: RSF calls on China to release all detained journalists

PHOTO: GREG BAKER / AFP
While there remains a risk of coronavirus contamination in Chinese prisons, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Beijing to immediately release all detained journalists.

On Wednesday March 25th, Australian authorities urged China to quash the conviction of the famous writer and blogger Yang Hengjun for "spying," arguing that his precarious state of health is incompatible with detention. RSF supports this request and calls on Beijing to extend leniency to all journalists, political commentators, bloggers and publishers who are being detained and to immediately release them.


"Although China promises that the epidemic is under control, no one can be sure that this is indeed the case and that the virus will not affect prisons, which are notoriously unsanitary and overcrowded,” said Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Border (RSF) East Asia Bureau head. “The state of health of detained journalists, already weakened by conditions of detention, ill-treatment and even lack of treatment, would give them no chance of survival in the event of contamination.”


China is the biggest prison in the world for journalists, with at least 108 detainees according to the count made by RSF. Some, such as the investigative reporter and two-time RSF award winner Huang Qi, the Chinese-born Swedish publisher Gui Minhai, and the Uighur journalists Ilham Tohti and Gulmira Imin, are being held in detention despite serious health problems, putting them in mortal danger unless they are released immediately.


China ranks 177th out of 180 in the 2019 RSF World Press Freedom Index.