Police officers keep watch outside a court in Beijing, China in May 2023. On April 20, police in the central city of Ezhou arrested journalist Shangguan Yunkai on the charge of “selling fake medicine.” (Reuters/Florence Lo)

Chinese journalist Shangguan Yunkai detained over corruption coverage

Taipei, May 9, 2023—Chinese authorities must immediately release and drop all charges against journalist Shangguan Yunkai and stop persecuting members of the press in retaliation for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On April 20, police in the central city of Ezhou arrested Shangguan at a tea house on the charge of “selling fake medicine,” according to news reports and a source familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. 

However, that person and the human rights website China Political Prisoner Concern said the arrest was retaliation for Shangguan’s reporting. The day before his arrest, he published an article about police in an Ezhou courtroom beating a plaintiff in 2021.

“Authorities in Ezhou, China, must immediately drop the apparent retaliatory charges against journalist Shangguan Yunkai and release him unconditionally,” said CPJ’s China representative, Iris Hsu. “Detaining a journalist who covers corruption allegations shows that officials in Ezhou have no intention of abiding by Beijing’s anti-graft campaign.”

The charge against Shangguan relates to advertisements for a balm at the end of the journalist’s articles, according to those news reports and a video by his son Shangguan Xuke, who said the balm was not meant for medical use.

Shangguan has covered alleged corruption for the state-run newspaper Legal Daily and his microblogs “Life in Queensland” and “Huangxiao Native Egg” in and around Hubei province for more than 20 years, on topics such as forgery by agricultural authorities in the Nanbu county of Sichuan Province and the government’s forced demolition of private properties in Ezhou

According to Shangguan’s blog on Weibo, where he has about 24,000 followers, his articles have led to anti-graft authorities reprimanding at least 200 officials. 

CPJ contacted the Ezhou public security bureau for comment via messaging app but did not immediately receive any reply. 

China is the second largest jailer of journalists as of December 1, 2022, with at least 43 journalists behind bars, according to CPJ’s annual prison census.