Chinese columnist Dong Rubin is serving a sentence of six years and six months in prison on charges of operating an illegal business and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Kunming police arrested Dong on September 10, 2013.
Dong was detained in Kunming, Yunnan province, on accusations of misstating his company’s registered assets, according to statements from his lawyer. On July 23, 2014, he was sentenced by Wuhua Court in Kunming to six years and six months in prison on charges of illegal business activity and creating a disturbance, according to the Hong Kong-based group Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
Dong, who runs an internet consulting company, used the name "Bianmin" on his microblog to criticize authorities and raise concerns about local issues. He also used the microblog to campaign in 2009 for an investigation into the death of a young man in police custody. Authorities had initially said the man’s death was an accident but later admitted he had been beaten to death, according to news reports. In 2013, Dong raised safety and environmental concerns about a state-owned oil refinery planned near the city of Kunming and expressed support on his microblog for a protest against the project by Kunming residents in May 2013.
Dong predicted his arrest when he wrote on his microblog, which had about 50,000 followers, that strangers had raided his office in late August and taken three computers. "What crime will they bring against me?" Dong wrote. "Prostituting, gambling, using and selling drugs, evading tax, causing trouble on purpose, fabricating rumors, running a mafia online?"
Dong’s friend, Zheng Xiejian, told Reuters in September 2013, "If they want to punish you, they can always find an excuse. They could not find any wrongdoing against Dong and had to settle on this obscure charge."
Although Dong is not a professional journalist, CPJ determined that he was jailed in connection with his news-based commentary published on the internet. From August 2013, authorities detained scores of people in a stepped-up campaign to banish online commentary that, among other issues, casts the government in a critical light, according to Chinese media and human rights groups.
During his trial Dong said he was questioned for seven to eight hours at a time for more than 70 days, while chained to a chair, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders. He is in frail condition, the Hong Kong-based group stated.
Dong is being held at Wuhua prison in Yunnan province, according to his friend and democracy activist, Li Huaping, and the Independent Chinese PEN Center.
CPJ’s calls to the Kunming Public Security Bureau in late 2019 seeking new information on Dong’s case went unanswered. As of September 2019, CPJ could not determine the state of Dong’s health.