Chinese journalist Chen Jieren is serving a 15-year sentence in Chenzhou city, Hunan province, after being convicted of picking quarrels and provoking trouble, extortion, operating an illegal business, coercive business trading, and corruption in connection to his political blog Jieren Guancha.
Chenzhou police arrested Chen, a freelance columnist who frequently published articles critical of Communist Party officials on Jieren Guancha, along with his wife, two brothers, and two assistants in Hunan province on July 4, 2018, and accused him of operating illegal businesses and racketeering, according to the U.S. government-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia and Hong Kong daily newspaper Ming Pao.
The arrests came after Chen wrote two articles alleging fraud and corruption by a regional party official, according to news reports. On July 2, 2018, Chen wrote an article questioning the authenticity of a regional party member’s resume. A week prior, he published an article criticizing Hunan province’s Shaoyang city party secretary, Deng Guangyan, and alleged that Deng was involved in covering up corruption. In that article, Chen wrote that Deng denied the allegation.
According to the U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America (VOA), Chen is the former chief editor of the state-run weekly China Philanthropy Times and former executive editor for the Jiangsu province division of the state-owned People’s Daily. Chen was fired from the newspapers in 2005 and 2011, respectively, for "criticizing the government too much," according to that report.
Chen and his family were held at the Chenzou Detention Center before their trial, according to Radio Free Asia’s interview with Chen’s lawyer, Wang Pingju. Wang told Radio Free Asia that the local supervisory committee denied his request to visit Chen because Chen’s case involves corruption.
In September 2019, Zhang Lei, a lawyer representing Chen’s family, told CPJ via messaging app that the family had not appeared in court over the past year.
On April 30, 2020, the Guiyang County Court sentenced Chen to 15 years in prison and a fine of 7,010,000 yuan (approximately US$1 million) for picking quarrels and provoking trouble, extortion, operating an illegal business, coercive business trading, and corruption, according to news reports and a report by Chinese state newswire Xinhua. According to those reports, Chen accepted the conviction and declined to file an appeal.
Chen’s brother Chen Weiren was also convicted of extortion and picking quarrels and provoking trouble, was sentenced to four years in jail, and fined 10,000 yuan (approximately US$1,500). Chen’s business partner Liu Min was convicted of picking quarrels and provoking trouble but exempt from criminal punishment, according to Chinese state newswire Xinhua.
According to the Chinese human rights news website China Political Prisoner Corner, Chen is being held at the Chenzhou City Detention Center in Hunan Province.
CPJ called the Guiyang County People’s Procuratorate in September 2021, but no one answered.