Taipei, April 24, 2023—Chinese authorities should immediately release journalist Dong Yuyu, drop any charges against him, and cease detaining and prosecuting members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.
On Monday, April 24, the journalist’s family released a statement, which CPJ reviewed, saying that Dong, a columnist for the state-run newspaper Guangming Daily, had been arrested on February 21, 2022, and held for more than a year in secret detention. Authorities arrested Dong while he was having lunch with a Japanese diplomat in Beijing; the diplomat was also detained for hours before being released, according to news reports.
On March 23, 2023, Dong’s family was notified that he would face trial for espionage, according to that statement and a statement by the U.S. National Press Club. Dong’s family said they had kept his detention private in hopes that the charges could be reduced or dropped, but went public after they were informed that his case would be sent to trial.
Espionage carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison, according to China’s criminal code.
“Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Guangming Daily columnist Dong Yuyu and allow journalists to do their jobs reporting on China’s domestic and foreign affairs,” said Iris Hsu, CPJ’s China representative. “Speaking to foreign diplomats is crucial to journalists covering international news. Going as far as trying Dong for espionage is absurd and cruel.”
Dong began working at the Guangming Daily in 1987, completed fellowships in Japan and the United States, and previously contributed to The New York Times, according to the press club statement and those news reports.
CPJ emailed China’s Foreign Ministry and the Japanese Embassy in Beijing for comment but did not immediately receive any replies.
When CPJ called the Guangming Daily for comment, a representative said to call back later. CPJ emailed the newspaper’s Beijing bureau chief for comment but did not immediately receive any response.
China is the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists, with 43 behind bars as of CPJ’s December 1, 2022, prison census. Dong was not included in that figure because CPJ was not aware of his case at the time.
[Editors’ note: This article has been updated in its final paragraph to correct the number of journalists imprisoned at the time of CPJ’s census.]