Liu, a journalist for the Shenzhen-based state-owned newspaper New Express, was arrested at his home in Chongqing province in connection with statements he made on his microblog in July 2013, according to news reports and Liu’s lawyers. He was charged with libel on September 30, 2013, news reports said.
In his posts, Liu urged authorities to investigate Ma Zhengqi, deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, for dereliction of duty during his term as vice mayor of Chongqing. Liu accused the official of losing millions of yuan while overseeing the privatization of two state-owned companies, according to media reports. Liu’s posts were later removed, and his microblog accounts were shut down without explanation.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post in July, Liu said that in 2002 Ma allowed civil servants to purchase the state companies for 1.7 million yuan (US$278,000), far less than their value of 27.7 million yuan. He also posted a government document allegedly showing that Ma waived investigation into the deal, saying, “What is done cannot be undone. Let’s focus now on the later development.”
Neither Ma nor the State Administration for Industry and Commerce publicly addressed Liu’s claims.
Authorities have not disclosed Liu’s whereabouts. No trial date was set in late 2013.
Authorities detained scores of people starting in August 2013 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. Many have been released, but some were still being held on criminal accusations.