Hong Kong, May 14, 2014–Chinese authorities said on Tuesday that police arrested a contributor to the U.S.-based Chinese-language news website Boxun News on May 3, accusing him of fabricating stories that harmed China’s image, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Xiang Nanfu’s arrest, which is the latest in a wave of detention of dissidents, including lawyers, professors, and journalists, in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square.
Xiang was shown on state TV on Tuesday, “confessing” to making up facts in his stories, the latest in a series of such appearances. Last week, journalist Gao Yu appeared to confess to leaking a confidential Communist Party document.
“Xiang Nanfu’s arrest demonstrates that China has little tolerance for reporting on dissidence,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz from New York. “Meanwhile, the rule of law is flouted by televised parades of journalists ‘confessing’ to their alleged crimes. Xiang should be released immediately and all charges against him dropped.”
Authorities charged Xiang, 62, with “provoking trouble” in his articles for Boxun News, according to the official Xinhua state news agency. The agency said Xiang had written false stories for Boxun News and had received large sums of money in exchange for the reports, according to statements by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.
Xiang has written reports and taken photographs and videos for Boxun News as a volunteer contributor since 2008, Watson Meng, founder of the news website, told CPJ. He mostly covered protests, police brutality, and land disputes, Meng said. One of his stories in April described protesters accusing the government of harvesting organs and burying people alive. Meng denied to CPJ that Xiang was paid a large sum of money for his reports and said Xiang never asked for any payment.
Meng also told CPJ that Xiang had been denied access to a lawyer. Meng said an intermediary was unable to reach any of Xiang’s family members. He said he was concerned Xiang’s wife and daughter could have been arrested as well.
Boxun News, which was founded in 2000 and based in North Carolina, is blocked in China. The website and news aggregator publishes stories on corruption and human rights abuses in China and gained prominence in 2012 when it accurately predicted the downfall of Bo Xilai, the former Communist party chief in Chongqing who was sentenced to life in prison last year for corruption. Boxun News contributors and its staff have been harassed repeatedly by authorities in recent years.
Meng told CPJ that Xiang has been detained on three separate occasions since 2010 in connection with his reporting for Boxun News. He said police had not been able to find sufficient evidence to charge Xiang with any crimes. News reports citing Meng said Xiang was the second Boxun News contributor to be detained this year, but the reports did not identify the first contributor.