The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the prolonged detention of journalist Jiang Weiping, who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence in Dalian, Liaoning Province. As of last month, Jiang had served half his sentence and is now eligible for parole under Chinese law. He should be released immediately.
Jiang, a former northeast China bureau chief for the Hong Kong-based Wen Hui Bao newspaper, was arrested in December 2000 after writing a series of articles for the Hong Kong publication Qianshao exposing corruption among senior officials in northeastern Chinese cities. In September 2001, the Dalian Intermediate Court secretly tried Jiang and later sentenced him to eight years in prison on charges of “revealing state secrets” and “inciting to subvert state power.”
On December 26, 2002, the Liaoning Province Higher People’s Court heard Jiang’s appeal and, while upholding his guilty verdict, reduced his sentence to six years in prison.
We believe that Jiang, a 2001 CPJ International Press Freedom Award recipient, was likely targeted for arrest by local officials angered by his investigations into corruption. In his articles, Jiang reported that Shenyang vice mayor Ma Xiangdong had lost nearly 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) in public funds gambling in Macau casinos. Jiang also revealed that Liaoning provincial governor Bo Xilai had covered up corruption among his friends and family during his years as Dalian mayor.
Ma was later arrested and accused of taking bribes, embezzling public funds, and gambling overseas, as part of the government’s anti-corruption campaign. He was executed for these crimes in December 2001.
On January 13, 2004, in a speech to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party, you vowed to combat corruption by strengthening supervision over government officials by the media and other groups, according to Xinhua News Agency. However, this worthy goal will not be realized as long as journalists are not permitted to report independently and aggressively on officials’ activities.
By immediately and unconditionally releasing Jiang Weiping, you would demonstrate to Chinese citizens and to the world that your administration will not tolerate the imprisonment of journalists who, through the course of their work, have fulfilled an important role in the fight against corruption. According to CPJ’s records, 39 journalists are currently imprisoned in China, several of whom were targeted for their reporting on corruption.
According to Article 81 of China’s Criminal Law, a prisoner who has served “more than half” of his sentence is eligible for parole. Jiang has now served more than three years of his six-year sentence and has suffered from a serious stomach disorder while in prison.
As an independent organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ believes that no journalist should ever be imprisoned for what they write. We therefore ask that Jiang Weiping be released immediately and without any conditions. We also ask Your Excellency to take steps to ensure that all journalists in China are free to carry out their professional duties without the threat of arrest.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your response.