New York, June 25, 2015–The editor of a Chinese human rights news website was formally arrested June 19 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power,” according to news reports. Over a month ago, 60-year-old Liu Xinglian, an editor of Rose China and the secretary-general of Rose Group, a Hubei province-based human rights organization that operates the website, was secretly taken from his home. At that time, Liu’s daughter’s attempt to file a missing person’s report was rebuffed by local authorities, according to Radio Free Asia.
Liu’s arrest, by the Wuhan Municipal Public Security Bureau in Hubei province, could be related to his publishing and reposting human rights news on Rose China, Pan Lu, the deputy director of Rose Group, told the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“The crime of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ is frequently employed by the Chinese government to silent dissenting journalists. It is a vague charge, almost impossible to defend against and nearly always resulting in a hard jail sentence,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “We call on Chinese authorities to drop the charges against Liu Xinglian immediately and release him from prison.”
In March–while meetings of the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a national advisory body of mostly non-Communist-Party delegates, were being held in Beijing–the police put Liu under house arrest for over a month to prevent him from going to the capital to protest. At the time, police warned Liu to disassociate himself from Rose Group to avoid further detention, according to news reports citing Pan Lu.
Rose Group was formed in 2014 by Liu Xinglian, a businessman from Hainan Province in southern China, and other human rights activists. Besides operating the website Rose China, the group has published 12 open letters to President Xi Jinping, calling on him to hold political dialogue with Chinese citizens and to strive for peaceful democratic transition. By the end of 2014, over 1900 people had signed the letters, according to the group’s annual work report. Members of the Rose Group have also tried to register the affiliated China Human Rights Observer as a non-governmental organization with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, on the premise that the Chinese Constitution guarantees the freedom of association, but without success.
In January, the director of the Rose Group, prominent pro-democracy activist Qin Yongmin, was also taken from his home by police. Several days later, the police detained his wife. Authorities have provided no notification to their families regarding the detention, and their whereabouts are unknown, Pan told CPJ.