Xu, the culture and books editor at the Beijing-based business magazine Caixin, is being held in Beijing Number One Detention Center on suspicion of “endangering national security,” according to Didi Tatlow, a New York Times reporter who also writes blog posts on China. A friend of Xu’s found her apartment vacant and her telephone turned off, Tatlow wrote.
Caixin, which is published in English and Chinese,is recognized internationally as one of China’s more outspoken news organizations. It is unclear why Xu, who focused in the magazine on poetry and the arts, was detained. Art and culture reporters are seldom arrested for their work. Xu was imprisoned for two years in the 1970s for being a counterrevolutionary, and in 2005 recounted her experiences in a collection of essays, Half a Life, in which she described the hardships and absurdities of detention, according to the Times. The book was reissued in 2012. The Times reported that late in 2014, propaganda officials had ordered certain books removed from store shelves and prohibited some authors, including Xu, from publishing new titles. Xu said at the time that she did not know why she was on the list because she had no plans to publish any book of her own, the Times reported.
A censorship directive was handed down on December 2 saying “The media are not to report on the investigation of Caixin magazine editor Xu Xiao,” according to a translation by the U.S.-based China Digital Times. The China Digital Times reported that Xu’s arrest came after President Xi Jinping told artists, writers, and performers at the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art in October that “literature and art undertaking is an important undertaking of the Party and the people” and called on them to promote Party ideology.