“Given China’s press freedom record, we are concerned these charges could be an attempt to punish Yang for his reporting on official corruption,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “If authorities cannot guarantee a legal process that is free of political bias, then these allegations should be dropped.”
Yang, 36, a reporter for China Industrial Economy News, has been formally arrested on suspicion of extortion and blackmail.
But Gong believes her husband’s arrest is connected to two articles he wrote in May 2005 alleging corruption in the sale of a state-owned company by local Longhui county officials to private individuals.
In September, his wife said, Yang began to feel that his life was in danger and went into hiding. In late December, according to online writer Li Xinde, police issued a notice offering a reward for information on Yang’s whereabouts. Police accused him of posting defamatory articles on an “illegal Web site” after he failed to extort up to 800,000 Yuan (US$100,000) from Longhui county officials.
Yang was seized at a friend’s house in Hunan Province on January 22, said his wife, who has not been permitted to see him since his arrest. Yang’s colleagues have spoken publicly in his support, and fear that criminal charges have been used to punish him for his work.
“In China, a county secretary holds a lot of power—financial, ideological, personnel—and that makes it difficult to ensure a fair hearing of any charges,” Yang’s lawyer Du Zhaoyong told Reuters.
Gong, who is also a journalist, has launched an appeal for her husband’s release at www.gongjie520.sohu.blog.com.