New York, June 28, 2016 – The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the detention of Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu, who systematically document protests on social media websites.
Police in Dali, Yunnan province, detained Lu and Li, who are romantic partners, on June 16 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to reports. Xu Hui, a writer and friend of Lu, told CPJ that the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture Detention Center confirmed to him that Lu and Li were being held in the center when he visited on June 25. But when Xu visited the detention center again the next day, he was informed that both had been transferred to another location. It is unclear where Lu and Li are currently held. It is also unclear whether Lu and Li were detained for their work documenting protests. A police officer at the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture Detention Center told CPJ that he has no information regarding Lu or Li.
Lu, a former migrant worker from Guizhou province in southwest China, has been reporting and archiving protests around China since October 2012, according to the American magazine Foreign Policy. Each day, Lu collects information about various kinds of protests – including those against land expropriation, wage arrears, official corruption, and environmental pollution — on Chinese social media platforms, often posted by participants and witnesses. After organizing and verifying the photos, videos, and texts, Lu publishes the information on his own social media accounts, including Twitter, Weibo, Blogspot, YouTube and Google Drive. Li has worked with Lu in documenting the protests, according to reports.
“‘Picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ is an absurdly vague charge, but the realities of Chinese jails are all too concrete,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Bob Dietz. “We call on Chinese authorities to release Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu immediately, and to allow them to collect and share information with the public without fear of harassment and prison.”
The charge “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” has been increasingly used in recent years against journalists in China. At least two journalists have been detained on the charge this year, while another journalist was sentenced in April to nearly five years in prison for the charge, CPJ reported at the time.
Police detained Lu for 10 days in April 2012 for participating in a protest demanding the disclosure of official assets. Li, originally from Foshan, Guangdong province, had been repeatedly harassed by police when she was a student at Sun Yat-sen University for publishing articles criticizing the Chinese government on websites blocked by China’s Internet censorship system. She dropped out of the university in 2014 as a result, according to Radio Free Asia and Wen Yunchao, a New York-based blogger and friend of Lu.