Chinese journalist accused of illegally acquiring state secrets

New York, October 19, 2015–Chinese authorities should immediately release an award-winning journalist who has been held since October 8 and accused of illegally acquiring state secrets, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Liu Wei is an investigative reporter for the Guangzhou-based newspaper Southern Metropolis.

“China is criminalizing basic reporting. The government’s interpretation of state secrets has grown so broad that it now encompasses routine criminal justice matters,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Liu Wei must be released and all criminal allegations against him dropped immediately.”

Police from Pingxiang prefecture in Jiangxi province detained Liu in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province, according to Chinese media. His family received a detention notice from the Jiangxi police saying that Liu had been detained on suspicion of “illegally acquiring state secrets” and had been held in a detention center in Jiangxi, news reports said. The state news agency Xinhua reported today that the Ministry of Public Security had taken up the investigation. Liu has not been officially charged.

The journalist’s arrest, which was publicized on social media on October 15, is in connection with his coverage of Wang Lin, a martial artist from Pingxiang who was detained in July. Wang was accused of involvement in the murder of his protégé, Zou Yong, who had accused Wang of fraud, according to Xinhua. Liu reported on the allegations against Wang as well as Zou’s murder, and published documents he obtained from Wang’s ex-wife. The news website Sohu reported that Liu’s arrest could have been in connection with the documents the journalist obtained from Wang’s ex-wife, who has also been detained. The Sohu article, along with many other reports on Liu’s case, was later removed from the website.

In 2014, Liu received the “Journalist of the Year” award by the Southern Media Group which owns Southern Metropolis, for articles he wrote in 2013 about Wang. “[Liu Wei]’s interviewing, reporting and following of the Wang Lin case are all part of his regular work-related duties,” Southern Metropolis told the newspaper Beijing News on October 16.

Southern Metropolis issued a statement supporting Liu to other media outlets, but the outlet did not publish the statement on its own newspaper, website, mobile app, or social media accounts.

“I was really shocked, because our investigative reporting has to go through layers of censorship. A lot of critical information thus gets filtered,” a colleague of Liu at Southern Metropolis, who asked to remain anonymous in fear of reprisal, told CPJ. “The company showed some backbone for putting out the statement, but it is not strong enough. It would be better if it publicized it on our own various platforms.”

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