New York, September 15, 2014–Police raided the home of a critical Chinese writer and publisher on Sunday, and detained him on a charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to his family and news reports. Huang Zerong, 81, had recently written articles criticizing restrictions on press freedom in China, according to news reports.
Beijing police raided the home of the Beijing-based writer and underground publisher, handed him a summons, and took him into custody, reports said. Huang, widely known by his pen name Tie Liu, was placed under criminal detention, which allows authorities to hold him for at least 30 days without formal charge, according to reports.
Police confiscated four laptops, a tablet, and a cellphone, along with several books and periodicals, many of which were published by Huang, who also writes for overseas websites, according to news accounts.
A domestic helper, Huang Jing, who helped with Huang’s publishing work, was also arrested, according to reports. No explanation for the second arrest was given, according to The Associated Press.
Huang, an outspoken critic of the Communist party, served more than 20 years in prison for being a “rightist” during the crackdown on intellectuals by Chinese leader Mao Zedong, according to reports.
“Arresting an elderly writer who has already spent years in custody speaks volumes about the low threshold for criticism in China,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “We call on Chinese authorities to immediately release Huang Zerong and his assistant, Huang Jing.”
Huang’s wife, Ren Hengfang, told news accounts that he had recently written online articles criticizing Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan for restrictions on press freedom. Ren told The New York Times that authorities said, “We’d warned him to think twice before publishing his essays, but he’s a stubborn character.”
The day before his arrest, meat laced with poison was given to Huang’s dog, who he had named Mao Mao in an ironic tribute to Mao, reports said. Ren believes hard-left supporters of Mao were responsible for killing the dog, and for leaving threatening messages on her husband’s phone.
Chinese authorities have mounted a widespread crackdown on critical voices in recent years, CPJ research shows. Cases include 70-year-old Gao Yu, who has been detained since April for leaking state secrets to a foreign news site.
China, along with Iran, tops the list as the world’s leading jailer of journalists, according to the latest CPJ research.