China: Journalist detained afterwriting about police clashes with Christians

New York, August 11, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the detention today of Hangzhou journalist Zan Aizong. Authorities placed Zan under a seven-day administrative detention this evening after warning him to stop writing about arrests and injuries involving Christians protesting the July 29 demolition of a church, according to the Independent Chinese PEN Center.

“The government has launched a massive crackdown on reporting of sensitive topics like religion and public protest,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Zan Aizong has been detained simply for his journalistic work, and we call for his immediate release.”

Zan was fired from his job at the Zhejiang bureau of the Beijing-based newspaper Haiyang Bao this week after posting an open letter and several articles online about the local government’s decision to demolish the church, according to the South China Morning Post. He told the paper that his boss had come under pressure from the Beijing press and publication bureau.

“He also told me that the bureau had collected many of my articles critical of government departments’ violations of human rights,” Zan told the South China Morning Post before he was detained. “And I was questioned by Xiaoshan police for seven hours last Friday—three days after the release of the open letter.”

Zan’s articles were posted on Web sites in China and overseas.

Authorities searched Zan’s computer and detained him today under suspicion of “disturbing public order” through his writings, according to the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Zan is a member of the group.

Police clashed with thousands of local Christians who were protesting the demolition of the church, according to international news reports that cited human rights organizations. State-run Xinhua news agency reported that the building was demolished because its construction was done without official approval, but the agency reported only two arrests and no injuries.

CPJ documented the government’s crackdown on coverage of civil unrest in a May special report, “China’s Hidden Unrest.” Read the report: