Zhou Weilin

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Chinese journalist Zhou Weilin is serving a sentence of three years and six months on charges of picking quarrels and provoking trouble. Police from the Hefei City Public Security Bureau Yaohai Branch Chengdong police station arrested Zhou, a reporter for Weiquanwang (Rights Protection Network), on March 20, 2020, and held him incommunicado for one year and four months.

Zhou reports for Weiquanwang, a Chinese-language human rights news website, and publishes news and commentary on Twitter, where he has about 3,250 followers, according to Weiquanwang and CPJ’s review of his posts. He frequently writes and posts about labor issues and disability rights.

On March 20, 2020, officers from the Chengdong police station, part of the Yaohai branch of the Hefei Public Security Bureau, in Anhui province, arrested Zhou on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to his employer and U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia.   

On July 29, 2021, by a court in Feidong county, in Anhui province, sentenced Zhou to three years and six months in prison, according to his employer, Radio Free Asia, and a person familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing pressure from authorities.

Zhou’s lawyer, Liang Xiaojun, told CPJ via messaging app that authorities cited Zhou’s social media posts and Weiquanwang reporting as evidence during court hearings. Liang said he also believed that Zhou’s arrest was partly in retaliation for him signing a declaration commemorating Li Wenliang, a doctor who raised an early alarm about the COVID-19 pandemic and later died of the virus. 

According to his employer and Radio Free Asia, the court cited as evidence the fact that Zhou was paid for his reporting, describing it as “foreign funding.” According to news reports, Weiquanwang is based in the United States. 

According to Weiquanwang and Liang, Zhou is detained at the Feidong County Detention Center. Liang told CPJ that Zhou is healthy but had experienced difficulty living in the detention center as a disabled person; Zhou lost an arm in an accident in 1986.

According to the person familiar with the case, Zhou plans to appeal his conviction. 

The Anhui Department of Justice did not reply to an email from CPJ requesting comment in August 2021.