New York, September 1, 2016 - Chinese authorities should credibly investigate allegations that prison guards beat online journalist Lu Yuyu in custody and ensure that he gets proper medical treatment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Lu and fellow journalist Li Tingyu, who is also his romantic partner, have been detained since June 16 on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" for aggregating and spreading social media reports on protests.
In a message sent to a group on the instant messaging service Telegram and subsequently reposted to social media platforms yesterday, Lu's lawyer, Wang Zongyue, said that when he had visited the jailed journalist earlier that day, Lu told him that guards had twisted his arms, choked him, and that he had hit his head on a wall as a result.
According to Lu's account, officers at Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture Detention Center in Dali, Yunnan province, had objected to his covering his eyes to sleep under the cell's bright lights on the night of August 29. An argument ensued, Lu told his lawyer, and the next morning guards came to his cell and told him to stand up. They then told him he did not know how to stand, and that they would teach him, which is when they assaulted him. After prison officials refused Lu's request to see a doctor, the journalist went on a hunger strike to protest his mistreatment, Wang said.
An officer at the Dali detention center, who did not give his name, denied via phone that prison guards at the center had assaulted Lu.
"Given Chinese authorities' record of abusing detainees, we are troubled by the allegation that guards assaulted Lu Yuyu in custody," CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said. "We call on Chinese authorities to drop the ridiculous charges against Lu and his partner Li Tingyu, and to seriously investigate the accusation."
Li Tingyu's lawyer, Huang Simin, visited Li on the same day, Huang told CPJ. The lawyer said her client told her that she heard Lu screaming the morning of August 30, and that other inmates had told her they had seen Lu injured.
Lu, a former migrant worker from Guizhou province in southwest China, has been reporting and archiving protests around China since October 2012. Lu collected information - photos, videos, and texts -- about protests on Chinese social media platforms, often posted by participants and witnesses. After organizing and verifying the materials, Lu published them on his own social media accounts. Li has worked with Lu in documenting the protests.
Journalists in Chinese jails have previously alleged that guards have beaten them in custody. Police beat Wang Jing -- a volunteer journalist for the human rights news website 64Tianwang sentenced in April to nearly five years in prison for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" by publishing articles about protests and police abuse -- and force-fed her when she went on hunger strike to protest her treatment, her lawyer alleged. Huang Qi, founder and editor of 64Tianwang, also said that he was seriously beaten when imprisoned from 2000-2005 for "inciting subversion" through articles published on the site.