Taipei, August 15, 2022 — Chinese authorities should immediately release and drop all charges against journalist Mao Huibin and allow the press to report on social issues freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
At 10 a.m. on August 9, police arrested Mao at his home in the city of Hengshui, according to the journalist’s wife, Wang Huidi, who spoke to CPJ by phone and news reports. Mao is a freelance journalist who contributes health and society news to independent blogs Nutritionist Huihui and Huihui World on the Chinese social media WeChat, according to those sources.
On July 17, Mao posted an article on Huihui World questioning the whereabouts of the victims of a June 2022 attack in the northeastern city of Tangshan, in which a group of men assaulted four women who rejected their sexual advances at a barbeque restaurant. On July 18, he posted a video of the assault on Nutritionist Huihui.
Since June, journalists going to Tangshan to cover the aftermath of the brutal attack have encountered obstruction by local authorities, including harassment and detention by Tangshan police, as CPJ has documented.
Mao was charged with the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” by the Tangshan police, who traveled to the city of Hengshui to arrest Mao, and is being detained in Tangshan City No. 1 Detention Center, according to Wang and news reports. If convicted, Mao faces up to 5 years in prison, according to the criminal code.
“Police in Tangshan must release Mao Huibin immediately and drop all charges against him,” said CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg, in New York. “Journalists have the right to report on news stories that are important to the Chinese public.”
Wang said Mao’s only connection with the city of Tangshan was the articles he published about the Tangshan attacks. Wang told CPJ she drove six hours on the night of August 11 from Hengshui to the Tangshan city public security bureau to inquire about her husband’s whereabouts and was told by police that she had no right to know.
“Police told me not to put any information about my husband’s arrest on the internet, saying that it will affect the case, my husband, me, and my children. I think they are threatening me,” Wang told CPJ. “As a journalist, Mao knew how to fact check and verify his sources. He also has the right to publish what he believes to be true. Authorities have no right to arrest him over some trumped-up charges.”
CPJ called the Tangshan public security bureau, but no one answered.
According to CPJ’s most recent prison census, at least 50 journalists were imprisoned in China as of December 1, 2021, making it the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the third year in a row.