Qi and Ma criticized a local official in Shandong province in an article published June 8, 2007, on the Web site of the U.S.-based Epoch Times, according to Qi’s lawyer, Li Xiongbing. On June 14, the two posted photographs on Xinhua’s anticorruption Web forum showing a luxurious government building in the city of Tengzhou.
Police in Tengzhou detained Ma on June 16 on charges of carrying a false press card. Qi, a journalist of 13 years, was arrested in his home in Jinan, the provincial capital, and charged with fraud and extortion, Li said. Qi was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison onMay 13, 2008.
Qi was accused of taking money from local officials while reporting several stories, a charge he denied. The people from whom Qi was accused of extorting money were local officials threatened by his reporting, Li said. Qi told his lawyer and his wife, Jiao, that police beat him during questioning on August 13, 2007, and again during a break in his trial.
Qi was being held in Tengzhou Prison, a four-hour trip from his family’s home, which limits visits, Jiao Xia told CPJ in October 2008. She had been able to visit him in September and reported no evident complaints.
Ma, a freelance photographer, had local media affiliations. Unconfirmed online reports said that he was sentenced in late 2007 to one and a half years in prison. Ma’s lawyer did not return phone calls.