China: Ailing journalist sentenced to jail after reporting on corruption

New York, June 15, 2006—A county court in central China today sentenced reporter Yang Xiaoqing to one year in prison on charges of extortion after he wrote about corruption involving local officials. Yang, a reporter for China Industrial Economy News, was arrested in January and charged with extortion and blackmail.

His wife, Gong Jie, said that Yang was innocent. She told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he would appeal the sentence. Before his arrest Yang spent months in hiding following threats and intimidation by local officials, his wife said. She believes that his detention is connected to two articles he wrote in May 2005 alleging corruption in the sale of a state-owned company by county officials.

“CPJ has documented several cases where local officials in China have fabricated charges against journalists in reprisal for critical reporting. In the absence of an independent judiciary, the odds are stacked against the journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper.

Authorities accused Yang of concocting reports in order to extort up to 800,000 Yuan (US$100,000) from Longhui county officials. But Yang’s colleagues stand by his reports.

Before the trial, the journalist’s lawyer, Zhang Xingshui, told CPJ that authorities had produced no evidence to support the charges against him. The lawyer said he did not believe that Yang could receive a fair trial in Longhui County, where he was sentenced today.

Yang’s health has deteriorated in detention, according to his wife. Gong said that her husband had developed an undiagnosed growth, and that prison officials had not allowed him to see a private doctor for treatment.

“Yang should be released so that he can seek medical treatment immediately,” Cooper added.