Chinese publisher Lü Hua is being held in pre-trial detention on accusations of extortion. Police in the city of Huanggang arrested Lü, founder of the independent news website Hubei Xinshidianwang, in late April, and held him incommunicado for more than a month.
Lü founded Hubei Xinshidianwang (Hubei New Perspective Site), which reports on local crimes, corruption, social issues, and weather in Huanggang city in central Hubei province, according to CPJ’s review. In early April, the outlet published an investigation, which was covered by other domestic media outlets, about a local official in eastern Hubei who allegedly used public money to build herself a luxurious bedroom in a government office building. The story has since been removed from the outlet’s website, which has not been updated since Lü’s arrest.
On April 19, 2023, police arrested Lü in Huanggang, in central Hubei province, according to a report in late July by state-owned provincial newspaper Hubei Daily and a mid-August report by the Chinese-language human rights news website Weiquanwang.
Hubei Daily said that Lü and another suspect were arrested for allegedly extorting advertisers, their equipment was seized, and their bank accounts frozen. It said their case went to court on May 26 with the approval of the Huanggang City Procuratorate, or public prosecutor.
If convicted of extortion, Lü could face up to three years in prison; if the court rules that the journalist committed a “more serious” form of extortion, he could face up to 10 years, according to China’s Criminal Law.
As of October 2023, CPJ could not determine whether Lü’s trial had started or where he was being held.
Huanggang city police did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment in October.