Suizhou police arrested Liu Feiyue, the editor and founder of the human rights news website Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, known in Chinese as Minsheng Guancha, in November 2016. He is serving a five-year sentence for “subverting state power.”
Police detained Liu, on November 16, 2016, according to his website. On November 24, 2016, Minsheng Guancha reported that police in Suizhou, in China’s central Hubei province, told Liu’s family that the journalist had been "criminally detained" and could be sentenced for subversion of state power, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Liu’s family had not received written notification of his detention from police, the outlet reported.
As the founder of a human rights news website, Liu has been a target of past police harassment and surveillance, and during politically sensitive events he has been detained or placed under house arrest, according to news reports. It was unclear if recent reports on the site led to his arrest. Liu was held briefly in October 2016 ahead of a gathering of the Chinese Communist Party Congress, according to reports. Authorities in China often detain writers and dissidents during national events or anniversaries such as of the Tiananmen Square protests to prevent them from disrupting the events or speaking to the media.
Minsheng Guancha was founded in 2006 and, according to its website, focuses "on the lives of the underclass." It reports on issues that state-controlled media outlets in China are often prohibited from covering, such as political protests, detentions of activists and writers, police abuse, and other human rights violations.
According to Liu’s lawyer at the time, Wen Donghai, Liu was physically and mentally in good health in September 2017, when he visited the journalist in prison. Wen and Yan Xin, another lawyer for Liu, submitted a letter to the Suizhou Municipal People’s Procuratorate in September 2017 calling for Liu to not be prosecuted for the crime of leaking state secrets, which could have led to a life sentence, Wen told CPJ.
In May 2018, the Hunan Department of Justice disbarred Liu’s lawyer Wen for interrupting court order and the prosecution process, according to news reports. On August 7, Liu’s trial started at the Suizhou Intermediate People’s Court. Lawyer Wu Kuiming took over Liu’s case.
On January 29, 2019, the Hubei Intermediate People’s Court found Liu guilty of “subverting state power” and sentenced him to five years in jail, according to the U.S. Congress-funded Voice of America.
Liu’s former lawyer, Xie Yanyi, whose license was revoked in December 2018 by the Beijing Justice Bureau for “not being employed by any law firm for more than six months,” submitted an appeal request for a public trial on April 11, acting as Liu’s civil representative, according to Radio Free Asia and the U.S.-based Chinese human rights organization China Aid.
On July 12, the Hubei Higher People’s Court held a brief second trial and rejected Liu’s appeal, according to the Independent Chinese Pen Center. Minsheng Guancha editor Ding Lingjie told CPJ in late 2019 via messaging app that Liu was being held at the Huangzhou Prison.
The Hubei Higher People’s Court did not respond to CPJ’s email requesting comment.