Hong Kong publisher Yao Wentian is serving a prison sentence of 9 years, 4 months on smuggling charges. Shenzhen police arrested Yao, publisher of the Morning Bell Press, in October 2013.
Yao’s son, Edmond Yao, said his father had been preparing to publish a book titled “Chinese Godfather Xi Jinping” by the exiled U.S.-based Chinese author Yu Jie. A previous book by Yu that Yao published, which criticized former Premier Wen Jiabao, is banned in China.
Yao was accused of falsely labeling and smuggling industrial chemicals. His family said he was delivering industrial paint to a friend in Shenzhen. At his trial, prosecutors said the cost of the industrial chemicals Yao was accused of smuggling from Hong Kong amounted to more than 1 million yuan (US$163,000), according to reports.
On May 7, 2014, during a closed-door trial at the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court, Yao was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison. It was reduced by 8 months in 2019, according to the Independent Chinese PEN Center, a non-profit organization formed by Chinese writers in exile of which Yao is an honorary member.
Yao was being held in Dongguan Prison in Guangdong province, where he has been hospitalized since having a stroke in 2015. He suffers from heart disease, prostate, and spinal problems, according to the PEN Center, who told CPJ that Yao’s wife hasn’t been allowed to visit him due to COVID-19 restrictions. He has been allowed one 20-minute video call with family per month since March 2021, but has recently shown some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and could not speak coherently, according to the Center.
CPJ tried to reach the Dongguan Prison’s management department in late 2022 seeking new information on Yao’s case, but the phone number listed on the prison’s website was not in service.