Chinese reporter arrested following months of police harassment

New York, June 4, 2007—A Nanjing-based reporter whose online video, audio, and written news reports had angered authorities is in police custody today along with his wife, according to his employer at the U.S.-based news Web site Boxun News. Following the May 30 arrest, police accused Sun Lin (known by his pen name Jie Mu) of illegally possessing weapons and heading a criminal gang.

“We are terribly concerned about the well-being of reporter Sun Lin and his wife He Fang,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The documented harassment of Sun for his reporting makes us exceedingly skeptical of the criminal charges now lodged against him.”

Sun began reporting for the banned Chinese-language Boxun News in September, its founder Watson Meng told CPJ. He had recently reported on a property dispute in the central Chinese city of Yangzhou, a murder in the northern city of Qinhuangdao (a venue of the 2008 Olympics), and a lawsuit lodged by a nongovernmental organization against Beijing authorities. Sun had also reported from North Korea on a huge abandoned building project.

In one of his most recent reports, from Tiananmen Square on May 25, Sun and fellow reporter Guang Yuan discussed Boxun‘s unsuccessful efforts to gain accreditation to cover the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Chinese citizens are forbidden from working as reporters for foreign news outlets. New regulations announced in relation to the Olympic Games give foreign correspondents a greater degree of freedom to travel and report the news in China.

On May 29, police raided the restaurant run by Sun’s wife, He Fang, and arrested more than 20 people, mostly employees of the restaurant, Boxun reported. Sun interviewed 10 of them after their release. Plainclothes police seized Sun and He at their home at 7 p.m. the following day.

In online videos and audio recordings, Sun had documented police harassment related to his work as a reporter. On March 21, police came to his house in Nanjing to warn him to stop reporting. They said that he was working for an illegal news organization and did not have an officially issued press card. Boxun, which posted video of the police visit, is based in North Carolina and posts news from citizen contributors in China. It is blocked by Chinese authorities.

In mid-May, Sun reported that a Nanjing printing company refused to print more copies of name cards identifying him as a reporter for Boxun News. In a phone conversation, the printer said that police officers had visited the store twice to warn them not to print his cards.

After the May 30 detention, the official Nanjing Daily reported that Sun was accused of heading a criminal gang that had extorted money from taxi drivers, and that police recovered guns and ammunition from his home. The official report does not mention Sun’s wife, who remains in custody despite earlier reports that she had been released, according to Boxun.

CPJ documented the widespread jailing of Chinese online journalists, particularly those who work for Boxun, in an October 2006 special report, “Virtual Reach of Faraway Jails.”

Sun and He have a young daughter.