Chinese journalist Shangguan Yunkai has been detained since April 2023 and is being held in the Ezhou No. 1 Detention Center on accusations of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “selling fake medicine.”
Police in the central city of Ezhou arrested Shangguan, a freelance reporter who covered alleged corruption, on April 20, at a tea house, according to news reports and a source familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. Shangguan’s daughter, Shangguan Zhiwei, was also arrested on the charge of “selling fake medicine.”
The charge against Shangguan relates to advertisements for a balm at the end of the journalist’s articles, according to those reports and a video by his son Shangguan Xuke, who said the balm was not meant for medical use.
However, the source familiar with the case and the human rights website China Political Prisoner Concern said the arrest was retaliation for Shangguan’s reporting. The day before his arrest, he published an article about police in an Ezhou courtroom beating a plaintiff in 2021.
Shangguan, has reported on Hubei province for the state-run newspaper Legal Daily and his blogs Huangxiao Native Egg and the now-removed Life in Queensland for more than 20 years. He covered topics such as alleged forgery by agricultural authorities in the Nanbu county of Sichuan Province and the government’s forced demolition of private properties in Ezhou. As of October 2023, his personal blog on Weibo has 24,000 subscribers, according to CPJ’s review.
Shangguan’s lawyer Wang Guiyi said in a social media post that he was allowed to visit the journalist at the detention center on April 27. On October 14, Wang said Shangguan’s daughter had been pressured to plead guilty and was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Wang told CPJ that Shangguan has not yet been convicted and pleaded not guilty. Wang said in a post on Weibo, which CPJ reviewed and has since been removed, that he faces threats of disbarment from Ezhou authorities.
CPJ was not able to determine Shangguan’s health situation as of October 2023, and no trial date has been set. CPJ’s messages to the Ezhou Public Security Bureau in October 2023 did not receive a response.