Veteran journalist detained, websites shut down in China

New York, August 2, 2013–Chinese authorities should release a veteran journalist and government critic being held without charge and reverse their orders to shut down more than 100 websites, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

State security agents detained Xiao Shu in Beijing early today, according to local and international news reports. The accounts said Xiao’s friends have been unable to contact him since he was taken into custody. Authorities have not disclosed where Xiao is being held or any charges against him.

Xiao, whose real name is Chen Min, has written for several news outlets known for their criticism of the government. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that Xiao had been targeted because of his support for a petition demanding the release of a dissident colleague, with whom he had collaborated in a grassroots campaign for more government transparency.

Xiao’s detention comes two days after the Beijing News reported that more than 100 private websites had been shut down since May 9. Several of the sites covered general news, or acted as news portals for citizen journalists. China’s online and social media sites are important sources of news and serve as an alternative to government-censored news sources.

The Beijing News report cited the government as saying that some of the sites were not permitted to operate, while others had been blackmailing companies or individuals by threatening to publish negative information about them. The government has not yet released any evidence to back up its allegations.

“The detention of Xiao Shu and the closure of so many websites are part of a broader crackdown on critics of the government in China. We are not aware of any charges being brought against Xiao, nor has the State Internet Information Office released evidence that the websites engaged in illegal behavior,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We urge President Xi Jinping’s government to recognize the importance of independent journalists and news outlets as part of the reform process it promised when it came into office.”

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