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China 21 August 2006

Journalist freed after one week but fired from newspaper

Journalist Zan Aizong was freed on 18 August after spending a week in administrative detention. He was arrested on 11 August and accused of “spreading rumours harmful to society” for reporting on foreign websites that a protestant church being built in the southeast province of Zhejiang was demolished by the authorities on 29 July.

The newspaper Haoyang Bao has fired Zan from his job as its Zhejiang bureau chief. Zan said his dismissal was ordered by the General Administration of Press and Publication. He told Reuters: “The authorities are doing whatever they can to crack down on reporters who dare to tell the truth.” He added that it would now be very hard for him to find a job with another newspaper.


Journalist arrested for posting reports about crackdown on Christians


Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of journalist Zan Aizong, who was arrested today in Hangzhou (in the southeastern province of Zhejiang) after posting reports on the Internet about government repression of Christians.

“This new arrest cruelly illustrates that it is impossible for a Chinese journalist to investigate and write about subjects such as the persecution of religious minorities,” the press freedom organisation said. “Zan had the courage to post reports on websites that he would never have been able to write for his government-controlled newspaper.”

According to the Independent Chinese Pen Centre, Zan posted a report on various overseas websites on 1 August about the arrests on 29 July of about 50 Protestants who were demonstrating about the destruction of a church in Xiaoshan, in Zhejiang province.

A reporter with the local daily Haiyang Bao and member of the Independent Chinese Pen Centre, Zan received a summons from the authorities on the evening of the same day that his article appeared on the Internet.

Aged 37, Zan posted another report on the Internet two days later about the authorities’ attempts to put pressure on him. His defiance led to another summons the next day. The police also searched his home and seized many personal documents. He was told not to leave town and he was fired from his newspaper, which is controlled by the local authorities.

Despite the threats, Zan posted an open letter to the Hangzhou chief of police on 9 August protesting against all the measures taken against him. He was arrested today and placed in administrative custody.

Meanwhile, some 20 Protestants are currently being held by the Zhejiang authorities for protesting against the destruction of a church. Some of them have allegedly been tortured during interrogation.

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