Reporters Without Borders today called for the immediate release of Yang Xiaoqing, a reporter based in Longhui in the southern province of Hunan, who has been detained since 22 January 2006 on a trumped-up charge of trying to extort 800,000 yuan (81,000 euros) from local officials for not accusing them of corruption in his newspaper reports.
His wife, Gong Jie, who is also a journalist, told Reporters Without Borders the charges against Yang were fabricated and that he needs the help of the news media. Prior to his arrest, Yang spent five months in hiding after writing two articles about local corruption last year.
“Local government officials in China are becoming increasingly aggressive in their control of the news,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is utterly unacceptable that a journalist should be imprisoned for exposing corruption. The central government must take up this case with those in charge of the Hunan provincial government in order to protect the freedom of journalists.”
Aged 36, Yang has been the correspondent of Zhongguo Chanjing Xinwenbao (China Industrial Economy News) since 2001. He also writes for Xianggang Shangbao (Hong Kong Commerce Daily). He has often covered mismanagement and corruption in Longhui. The two reports that got him into trouble were about a company that was privatised for a modest price and then resold at a great profit.
In her blog, his wife Gong has accused the authorities of trying to make Yang confess to a something he did not do. His lawyers say prosecutors took up the case on the orders of the local officials who had brought an action against him. Gong went to Beijing to seek legal advice and to appeal to the media to come to her husband’s defence.
Yang is currently being held in the Longhui police station, where police officers have refused to give any information about him to the news media.
This is not the first time Chinese journalists have been arrested on trumped-up charges while investigation corruption. Gao Qinrong is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence as a result of covering a similar case in Shanxi province.
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