New York, May 20, 2016 – The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the disappearance of Chinese writer Huang Zerong, and today called on Chinese police to disclose whether they have him in custody, and why. The 82-year-old writer disappeared from his home last week, according to his wife and press reports.
Huang’s wife, Ren Hengfang, told CPJ by telephone that Huang, widely known by his pen name, Tie Liu, disappeared sometime after she left the country on April 30. When she came home on May 16 and could not find Huang, she contacted the local police in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. The police told her, “Don’t worry, he will be fine,” but gave her no further information. Liu Xiaoyuan, Huang’s lawyer, told CPJ that Huang had been unreachable since May 13.
CPJ’s phone calls to the phone numbers listed on the website for Chengdu’s Public Security Bureau did not go through.
Ren also told CPJ that the police detained Huang from March 28-April 1, briefly allowing him to return home on March 29 to collect some clothes, on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
Ren also said that the Chinese social media and messaging platform WeChat had deleted Huang’s WeChat accounts recently, one in April, the other in May.
“Tie Liu hasn’t written anything recently, I have no idea why they took him away again. He will be 83 at the end of this month. What ‘trouble’ can an old man like him provoke?” she asked rhetorically.
“Pulling an 82-year-old man like Huang Zerong from his home and detaining him without telling his family his whereabouts would take China’s recent history of detaining writers and intellectuals to new lows,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “Chinese authorities should immediately disclose whether they are holding Huang and why, and stop harassing him.”
Police arrested Huang in September 2014 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Following five months in detention, a court gave him a suspended 30-month jail sentence after convicting him of “illegal business activity” for publishing the memoirs of people persecuted under Chairman Mao Zedong for criticizing the Communist Party.
Huang’s wife and friends said they believe that the case was also related to online articles Huang had written criticizing Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan for imposing restrictions on press freedom.
After Huang was released in February last year, authorities prohibited him from returning to Beijing, where he had lived for decades, and forced him to stay in Chengdu, according to the U.S.-government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia. In December, Huang published an article about the cruel treatment he endured in detention, including being shackled for 13 days in his hospital bed when he was treated for cardiovascular complications. Huang had also served more than 20 years in a labor camp from 1957 to 1980 for being a “rightist” during the crackdown on intellectuals by Chairman Mao. Huang was formerly a journalist for Chengdu Daily, and has written extensively on the history of the “anti-rightist movement.”