Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage at the one-year prison sentence which a people’s court in Longhui in the southern province of Hunan today imposed on journalist Yang Xiaoqing after convicting him on a trumped-up charge of “extortion”.
“The court has sent a journalist to prison for denouncing corruption,” the press freedom organisation said. “We call on the judicial system to ensure that the appeal is heard before judges who are independent of the authorities in Longhui.”
Yang’s wife, Gong Jie, told Reporters Without Borders she was appalled by the conviction and would fight to prove his innocence. Voicing concern that he would be subjected to forced labour, she said she would file an appeal on his behalf. His lawyers said they would request his release on completion of half the sentence under a Chinese legal provision.
The Longhui correspondent of Zhongguo Chanjing Xinwenbao (China Industrial Economy News) and an occasional contributor to Xianggang Shangbao (Hong Kong Commerce Daily), Yang often wrote about mismanagement and corruption in Longhui, especially in the year prior to his arrest on 22 January.
The two reports that got him into trouble were about a company that was privatised and then resold at a great profit. He was accused of trying to extort 800,000 yuan (81,000 euros) from the officials involved in exchange for not covering the story.
His wife is adamant in denying the allegation. Yang’s lawyers complained in April that the prosecutors handling his case were taking orders from the officials who pressed charges against him.