Chinese journalist Cai Wei is being held in pretrial detention on accusations of picking quarrels and provoking trouble. Beijing police arrested Cai and Chen Mei, volunteers for the crowd-sourced news-archiving project Terminus 2049, in April 2020 after the site republished articles on COVID-19.
Started in April 2018, Terminus 2049 collected and archived news items censored by Chinese authorities on social media platforms and mainstream media outlets, according to Terminus 2049 Watch, a website run by Chen’s brother Chen Kun, which publishes information about Cai and Chen’s case.
Terminus 2049 republished censored articles on alleged sexual harassment in Chinese universities, the suicide of a student who was bullied by his professor, and Chinese authorities’ campaign to evict migrant workers from Beijing, among other topics, according to CPJ’s review of the website. Starting in late 2019, Terminus 2049 republished nearly 100 censored news articles about the COVID-19 outbreak in its early stages in China. It has not published any updates since April 2, 2020.
On April 19, 2020, Beijing police arrested Cai, Chen, and Cai’s girlfriend Tang Hongbo, all volunteers at the website, on the charge of picking quarrels and provoking trouble.
Chen Kun told Radio Television Hong Kong that he believed the arrests were likely connected with Terminus 2049’s archive of COVID-19-related articles.
A week after the arrests, Cai’s father received a letter, sent on April 20 by the Beijing Public Security Bureau Caoyang Branch, notifying him that Cai had been placed under “residential surveillance at a designated location,” a form of extrajudicial detention, according to the Terminus 2049 Watch and news reports. Tang was released on bail on May 13 and Cai and Chen were formally arrested on June 12, according to a blog post about the case written by Tang.
On August 12, Cai Jianli filed a complaint to the Beijing City Chaoyang District Supervisory Committee, alleging that the prosecutor’s office and police had illegally handled the case by telling Cai that he did not need a lawyer and forcing the family to drop their privately hired lawyers.
On September 23, Chen’s mother received a call from the government-assigned lawyer saying that Chen’s case had been filed to the Chaoyang District Court two days earlier by a prosecutor surnamed Wang, Chen Kun wrote on Twitter. Chen Kun and Cai Jianli identified the prosecutor as Wang Yue, and tweeted his phone number.
When CPJ called that number, a man answered the phone but then hung up when CPJ asked if he was the prosecutor.
When CPJ called the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau Chaoyang Branch, an officer said that only the family members of Cai and Chen can make inquiries about the case and refused to disclose any information, citing privacy restrictions.