Detained journalist maltreated in China

New York, October 25, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned for the safety of detained journalist Qi Chonghuai, who was beaten by police while in custody, according to his wife.

Qi has been detained at the Tengzhou Detention Center in the eastern province of Shandong since June 25 when police took him from his home, his wife Jiao Xia told CPJ. He was initially held for using a false press card, but was formally charged with extortion on August 2, according to his lawyer, Li Xiongbin. Qi denies the charge. During a visit on August 23 he told Jiao and Li that police had beaten him several times around the face and thrown water at him during an interrogation on August 13. Police told him that they could beat him as much as they liked, and call it suicide if he died, the lawyer told CPJ.    

“Reports that Qi has been badly treated in custody are disturbing,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Journalists should be entitled to fair treatment in the Chinese legal system. This is particularly important leading up to the 2008 Olympics, with dozens of journalists still behind bars in China.”

Prior to his arrest, Qi defended an online posting on the Xinhua News Agency Web site exposing corruption, local news reports said. The posting, originally dated June 14, contained photographs of a luxurious new government building thought to be taken by Qi’s friend Ma Shiping, according to the reports. Ma was detained on June 16, also for using a false press card. CPJ is investigating the charges against Ma to determine is he is being unfairly held because of his work as a journalist.

Qi and Ma are awaiting trial. Both charges carry a penalty of at least three years imprisonment in China.

Qi has been a journalist for 13 years. He had written several articles for different publications on sensitive topics, including displaced peasants and the environment, which have criticized the local administration, according to his lawyer. Some of his articles were published by the Falun Gong-affiliated newspaper and Web site The Epoch Times.

Qi and Jiao have two children.