Taipei, March 21, 2019 — Chinese authorities should immediately release ILabour.net editor Wei Zhili and ensure that editors and reporters will not be arrested for reporting on workers’ rights.
Police from Shenzhen arrested Wei early yesterday morning in the city of Guangzhou, in Guangdong province, on charges of disturbing public order, according to his wife and prominent feminist writer Zheng Churan, who spoke with CPJ, and news reports.
Ke Chengbing, another ILabour.net editor, went missing yesterday and is believed to also be in police custody, according to human rights group Weiquanwang and news reports. The website’s editor-in-chief, Yang Zhengjun, remains in prison after he was arrested in January and charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to ILabour.net.
Zheng told CPJ that she believes authorities arrested Wei and his coworkers because of their reporting on labor rights issues and on the prevalence of black lung disease among Chinese workers.
“The arrest of Wei Zhili is just the latest example of how frightened China’s leadership is of journalists who expose the truth about labor conditions in China,” said CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler in Washington, D.C. “Wei and his colleagues should be released and hailed as heroes for covering the laboring class, which China’s communist leaders have abandoned.”
Zheng wrote on Facebook that Wei was arrested at his parents’ home by officers from the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau’s Longhua branch, who told Wei’s parents that he had been brainwashed.
She told CPJ that she does not believe Wei did anything illegal, and was just “telling workers’ stories and helping them get justice.”
An officer who answered the phone at the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau’s Longhua branch told CPJ that he had no information regarding Wei’s case.
At least 47 journalists were imprisoned in China at the end of 2018, making it the second largest jailer of journalists worldwide, after Turkey.