Jiang, a freelance journalist, was arrested after he published a number of articles in the Hong Kong-based magazine Qianshao (Frontline), a Chinese-language monthly focusing on mainland affairs. The stories exposed corruption scandals in northeastern China.
Jiang wrote the Qianshao articles, which were published between June and September 1999, under various pen names. His coverage exposed several major corruption scandals involving high-level officials. Notably, Jiang reported that Shenyang Vice Mayor Ma Xiangdong had lost nearly 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) in public funds gambling in Macau casinos. Jiang also revealed that Liaoning provincial Governor Bo Xilai had covered up corruption among his friends and family during his years as Dalian mayor.
Soon after these cases were publicized in Qianshao and other Hong Kong media, central authorities detained Ma. He was accused of taking bribes, embezzling public funds, and gambling overseas and was executed for these crimes in December 2001. After Ma’s arrest, his case was widely reported in the domestic press and used as an example in the government’s ongoing fight against corruption. However, in May 2001, Jiang was indicted for “revealing state secrets.”
The Dalian Intermediate Court held a secret trial in September 2001. On January 25, 2002, the court formally sentenced Jiang to eight years in prison on charges including “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegally providing state secrets overseas.” This judgment amended an earlier decision to sentence Jiang to nine years. During the January sentencing, Jiang proclaimed his innocence and told the court that the verdict “trampled on the law,” according to CPJ sources. Jiang immediately appealed his sentence to the Liaoning Province Higher People’s Court. On December 26, 2002, the court heard the appeal and, while upholding Jiang’s guilty verdict, reduced his sentence to six years, according to the California-based Dui Hua Foundation, which has been in direct contact with the Chinese government about the case. A court official told The Associated Press that, “We just thought that his criminal records were not as serious as previously concluded.”
According to CPJ sources, Jiang has a serious stomach disorder and has been denied medical treatment. Held in a crowded cell in unsanitary conditions early in his prison term, he also contracted a skin disease. His wife, Li Yanling, was repeatedly interrogated and threatened following her husband’s arrest. In March 2002, the local public security bureau brought her in for questioning and detained her for several weeks.
An experienced journalist, Jiang had worked until May 2000 as the northeastern China bureau chief for the Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Hui Bao. He contributed freelance articles to Qianshao. In the 1980s, he worked as a Dalian-based correspondent for Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
In November 2001, CPJ honored Jiang with its annual International Press Freedom Award. In February 2002, CPJ sent appeals to Chinese President Jiang Zemin from almost 600 supporters–including CBS news anchor Dan Rather, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and former U.S. Ambassador to China Winston Lord–demanding Jiang’s unconditional release. That month, U.S. President George W. Bush highlighted Jiang’s case in meetings with Jiang Zemin during a state visit to China.