Washington, D.C., July 6, 2017--Chinese authorities should drop all charges and immediately free Yang Xiuqiong, a contributor to the banned human rights news website 64 Tianwang, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Police in Mianyang city, Sichuan province, arrested Yang on June 23 and charged the journalist with "illegally providing state secrets overseas," according to news reports and a 64 Tianwang volunteer, whose name CPJ is withholding for fear they might face retaliation. Yang, who has been detained by police several times in the past, was arrested after authorities charged her in the same criminal case as that of Huang Qi, the founder and publisher of the site, who was arrested on November 28, 2016.
The arrest came as Chinese authorities stepped up their campaign against the site and its contributors. A court on July 4 rejected 64 Tianwang contributor Wang Shurong's appeal of a six-year sentence for "picking quarrels and provoking troubles," according to press reports. Another 64 Tianwang volunteer, Chen Tianmao, was also arrested late last year and charged alongside Huang Qi on charges of providing state secrets. Lian Huanli, also a volunteer for the website, has been missing since May, according to media reports.
"The arrest of Yang Xiuqiong is yet another escalation of China's war against free expression and news reporting in the country," said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler. "Yang and fellow journalists from the 64 Tianwang news website must be freed immediately, with all charges dropped."
Chinese police have detained Yang at least twice before, including for reporting on protests at the September 2016 G-20 summit in Hangzhou, according to reports.
64 Tianwang began as a missing-persons search website and later evolved into a news website site that covered protests, allegations of government corruption and abuse of power, police brutality, and the detention of writers and activists.
China is the world's second worst jailer of journalists, according to CPJ research. At the end of 2016, when CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed around the world, China imprisoned 38 journalists, including 64 Tianwang founder Huang Qi.