Three years after Liu Xiaobo’s death, at least ten press freedom defenders at risk of dying in China’s prisons

Three years after the death of Nobel Peace Prize and RSF Award laureate Liu Xiaobo, after being denied medical care whilst in detention, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published a list of ten press-freedom defenders whose lives are in grave danger if not immediately released.

Thirteenth of July marks the anniversary of the death of Nobel Peace Prize and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Award laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was the embodiment of the fight for freedom of expression in China and died of an aggravated cancer after being denied treatment during detention. According to RSF, at least 114 journalists and press freedom defenders are currently locked away in Chinese jails, some under a life sentence. RSF published a list of ten of them sentenced to heavy prison terms who are in danger of losing their lives if not immediately released.

Ilham Tohti, aged 50, Journalist, Václav Havel Prize and Sakharov Prize 2019

  • Media: Founder of Uyghur Online.
  • City of detention: Yili Kazakh (Xinjiang Province).
  • Arrest date: January 2014 
  • Punishment: Life imprisonment for “separatism” (September 2014).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Reported on the situation of the autonomous province of Xinjiang.
  • Health status: Suffers from cardiac and pulmonary problems and experienced significant weight loss. Exact state of health has been unknown since late 2018. 

Gulmira Imin, aged 42, Writer and Webmaster

  • Media: Former administrator of information website, Salkin.
  • City of detention: Ürümqi (Xinjiang Province).
  • Arrest date: July 2009 
  • Punishment: Life imprisonment for "separatism" and "disclosing state secrets abroad" (April 2010). 
  • Probable cause of the arrest: Criticised the government.
  • Health status: No medical status disclosed, many fear that her health will decay due to the notoriously poor detention conditions in Chinese prisons.

Lu Jianhua (Wen Yu), aged 60, Political Commentator

  • Media: CCTV, Phoenix TV, Singapore Strait Times
  • City of detention: Yancheng (Hebei Province).
  • Arrest date: March 2005
  • Punishment: Twenty years imprisonment for "disclosure of state secrets” (December 2006).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Wrote articles commenting on the Chinese economic, political and social situation. 
  • Health status: NGO Independent Chinese Pen Center noted a deterioration of his health status. Authorities have refused his medical release after it was requested. 

Zhang Haitao, aged 49, Political Commentator

  • Media: BoxunRadio Free Asia, and Voice of America
  • City of detention: Shaya (Xinjiang Province).
  • Arrest date: June 2015
  • Punishment: Nineteen years imprisonment for "inciting subversion of state power" and "disclosing state secrets abroad” (January 2016).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Criticised the Chinese government on social media and in interviews with foreign media.
  • Health status: Beaten and forced to wear heavy irons on feet for six months, and denied sustenance. His state of health has been unknown since April 2018.

Qin Yongmin, aged 66, Political Commentator

  • Media: Head editor of NGO Human Rights Watch in China’s newsletter and the website Rose China.
  • City of detention: Wuhan City (Hubei Province).
  • Arrest date: January 2015 
  • Punishment: Thirteen years imprisonment for “inciting the subversion of state power" (July 2018).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Promoting the idea of a peaceful transition to a democracy respectful of human rights, including press freedom. 
  • Health status: Has grown weak after a total of 20 years spent in detention and labour camps in previous decades. Fainted during a court trial. His health has significantly deteriorated. No information shows that he receives any treatment.

Huang Qi, aged 57, Journalist, RSF Award 2004 and 2016

  • Media: Founder of 64 Tianwang
  • City of detention: Bazhong (Sichuan Province).
  • Arrest date: November 2016
  • Punishment: Twelve years imprisonment for "disclosure of state secrets abroad" (July 2019).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Gave voice to victims of a state apparatus’ abuse.
  • Health status: Serious cardiac and liver problems due to eight years in prison and labor camps; suffered assault and beatings whilst in detention. In July 2019, RSF sent a letter to President Xi Jinping requesting Huang Qi’s pardon, which received no response.

Yiu Mantin (Yao Wentian), aged 80, Editor

  • Media: Morning Bell Press
  • City of detention: Dongguan (Guangdong Province).
  • Arrest date: October 2013 
  • Punishment: Ten years imprisonment for “smuggling prohibited products” (May 2014).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Having attempted to publish a book which criticizes President Xi Jinping.
  • Health status Suffered five heart attacks in prison as well as asthmatic, cardiac-related and prostate related issues, and hepatitis B. Requests of medical parole have been denied. There has been no news of him since November 2017. 

Gui Minhai (Michael Gui), aged 56, Writer, Swedish national, laureate of Swedish PEN’s 2019 Tucholsky Prize

  • Media: Shareholder of bookstore, Causeway Bay Books and Mighty Current publishing house.
  • City of detention: Ningbo (Zhejiang Province).
  • Arrest date: Kidnapped in Thailand in October 2015.
  • Punishment: Ten years imprisonment "illegally providing intelligence overseas” (February 2020).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Having attempted to publish his book on the mistresses of President Xi Jinping.
  • Health status: Has symptoms of a serious neurological disease but was denied access to a doctor selected by the Swedish Embassy. 

Wu Gan, aged 47, Blogger and Political Commentator 

  • Media: Twitter
  • City of detention: Qingliu (Fujian province).
  • Arrest date: May 2015
  • Punishment: Eight years imprisonment for "inciting subversion of state power" (December 2017).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Wrote a satirical piece on the corruption of Communist Party officials.
  • Health status: Victim of torture and ill-treatment and forced sleep deprivation. Has lost fifteen kilos in detention. Wu suffers from muscular pains, paralysis in his arms, and heart and blood pressure problems as a result of electrocution. Latest information received about Wu surfaced in March 2019. 

Jiang Yefei, aged 53, Cartoonist

  • Media: Boxun
  • City of detention: Chongqing
  • Arrest date: October 2015
  • Punishment: Six and a half years imprisonment for "inciting subversion of state power" and "illegal border crossing" (July 2018).
  • Probable cause of arrest: Making satirical cartoons criticizing the human rights situation in China.
  • Health status: Has said to be tortured and possibly blinded in one eye from lack of care.

China, the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, ranks 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 10.07.2020