Taipei, July 11, 2018--The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Chinese authorities to immediately release Chen Jieren, an independent blogger who frequently published articles critical of the Communist Party officials on his blog, Jieren Guancha (Jieren Watch).
Hunan Province police on July 4 arrested Chen, his wife, and his two brothers on suspicion of extortion and running an illegal business, according to Hong Kong's Chinese-language newspaper Mingpao. All four remain in custody, according to a report from U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Asia.
CPJ was unable to determine if they have been charged.
Their detention came after Chen wrote two articles alleging fraud and corruption by regional party officials, according to news reports. Both articles have been deleted and Chen's blog closed down since his July 4 arrest, according to news reports.
"Chen Jieren should not be in jail merely for reporting on alleged government misdeeds," said Steven Butler, CPJ Asia program coordinator in Washington, D.C. "Exposing public corruption is what journalists do; it's public service, not a crime."
No one answered when CPJ called the province's Public Security Department for comment.
On July 2, Chen wrote an article questioning the authenticity of a regional party member's resume. A week prior, Chen published an article criticizing Hunan Province's Shaoyang city party secretary, Deng Guangyan, and alleged that Deng was involved in a massive corruption cover-up. In the article, Chen wrote that Deng denied the allegation.
According to the U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America (VOA), Chen is the former chief editor of the state-run weekly China Philanthropy Times and former executive editor for the Jiangsu Province division of the state-owned People's Daily. Chen was fired from both newspapers respectively in 2005 and 2011 for "criticizing the government too much," according to the VOA report.
China's growing control over media freedom has stretched across the internet and continued to target individuals who dare to express minimal discontent over the Communist Party's rule, according to CPJ research. The country was the second largest jailer of journalists in CPJ's most recent prison census, with 41 journalists behind bars in December 2017.