Police detained Liu Feiyue, the editor and founder of the human rights news website Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, known in China as Minsheng Guancha, on November 16, 2016, according to his website.
On November 24, 2016, Minsheng Guancha reported that police in Suizhou city 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 Wen Donghai, Liu is physically and mentally in good health. “Of the two accusations Liu faces, ‘subversion of state power’ and ‘leaking state secrets,’ the latter bears harsher punishment, which could lead to life sentence,” Wen told CPJ. He said he visited Liu on September 19, 2017. 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.
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, who took over Liu’s case, told CPJ that the case was in the negotiation process and he could not discuss it in September 2018.
When CPJ called the Suizhou Public Security Bureau in September 2018, the officer who answered the phone immediately hung up at the mention of CPJ’s name. As of January 2018, Liu was being held at the No. 1 Detention Center in Suizhou, Hubei province, according to Amnesty International’s report on Liu being denied access to legal aid. Liu’s lawyer and his family declined to share new details of the case with CPJ in late 2018.