Journalist sentenced to two years’ administrative detention

New York, May 11, 2004—Freelance journalist Liu Shui has been sentenced to two years’ administrative detention in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. CPJ is very concerned that authorities may have arrested Liu in retaliation for his recent writing on sensitive political topics.

On May 2, police in Shenzhen detained Liu and a friend on charges of “soliciting prostitution.” They were brought to a detention center, where they were questioned. The next day, Liu’s friend was released, according to press reports.

Liu was transferred to Xili Detention Center in Shenzhen, where he has been sentenced to two years of “custody and education,” a form of administrative detention specifically designed for accused prostitutes and their clients. According to Chinese law, authorities can sentence individuals to up to two years of “custody and education” without holding a trial or filing formal charges.

Prior to his arrest, Liu had written a number of essays commemorating the June 4, 1989, military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing, advocating for the release of political prisoners, and calling for political reforms. Many of his essays were posted on Chinese-language Web sites hosted overseas.

Liu, 37, is a journalist who has worked as an editor and reporter for publications including Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis News) and Shenzhen Wanbao (Shenzhen Evening News), according to news reports.

This is the fourth time Liu has been arrested. In 1989, he was active in the democracy movement in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, and subsequently spent a year and three months in prison on charges of “counter-revolutionary propaganda and organization.”

In 1994, he spent three years in prison on “counter-revolutionary propaganda” charges after editing a book titled The Truth About the June 4th Incident. He was also briefly detained in 1998.

In recent months, Liu Shui has written a number of essays, news reports, and poems that have been published online. In an article published on April 23, he reported on an anti-corruption protester in Shanghai whom police had beaten up and detained. He also published a poem in tribute of the Tiananmen Mothers, a group of women whose relatives were killed or injured in the June 4, 1989, military crackdown. In one of his most recent articles, which was posted online on April 27, he interviewed family members of the New Youth Study Group—four young men who are serving lengthy prison sentences on “subversion” charges for using the Internet to distribute articles on social and political issues.

“Liu Shui’s arrest is another example of Chinese authorities using spurious criminal charges against a journalist who has challenged the political status quo,” said CPJ Deputy Director Joel Simon. “Fifteen years after the June 4 crackdown, China’s leaders have proven that they still will not tolerate any open discussion of political and social reforms.”