Journalist's Prison Term Extended; China Economic Times Editor Removed

The New York Times reports the extended imprisonment of investigative journalist Qi Chonghuai, apparently in continued retaliation for articles he wrote in 2007.

Mr. Qi was originally detained after he wrote a series of articles in the state-run media detailing corruption among local party officials in the city of Tengzhou. The articles included an expose into the construction of a lavish government building and the beating of a female employee who was late for work.

Less than two weeks after the articles were published, Mr. Qi was detained by the police and, according to relatives, subjected to 11 months of physical and psychological abuse by members of the Tengzhou Public Security Bureau. They said his time in prison was marked by repeated torture, beatings by other inmates and hard labor in a prison coal mine.

According to the organization Human Rights in China, the authorities decided to prolong Mr. Qi’s detention after he told the Tengzhou mayor and other top officials he planned to continue his anticorruption work after his release.

The Committee to Protect Journalists provides further information on Qi’s case:

Less than three weeks before the completion of his four-year prison term, a court in Shandong province sentenced Qi to a further eight years in jail, according to New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China and Radio Free Asia. Qi’s wife, Jiao Xia, told Radio Free Asia the charges were still in retaliation for Qi’s reporting prior to his 2007 arrest, which exposed local corruption.

Human Rights in China, citing an online article by Qi’s lawyer, Li Xiaoyuan, said the court sentenced him a second time on June 9 for his original charge of extortion and blackmail. They added a separate charge of stealing advertising revenue from a former employer, China Security Produce News. Li’s article says local authorities informed Qi in May it had new evidence against him, prompting the latest trial–in which he felt Qi’s guilt was already decided. “I felt we were just going through the motions,” Li writes. Qi will serve a total 12 years.

“Qi Chonghuai’s harsh new sentence underscores that Chinese the legal system is being abused to prevent reporting,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator. “The release of some Chinese journalists does not change the fact that they should never have been behind bars, and could face harassment at home.”

Also last week, Zhang Jianjing, editor of China Economic Times, was transferred to a different publication, shortly following the closure of the newspaper’s investigative team led by Wang Keqin.

“Yes, that’s right,” Zhang replied when asked to confirm reports from sources close to the paper that he was being transferred to the China Economic Yearbook under the same cabinet-level research body ….

Sources close to the paper said that Zhang’s transfer and the shut-down of Wang’s team were definitely linked, but that Zhang would likely not lose seniority with the move.

“The fact that there was a lot of news released that revealed the truth under the leadership of Wang Keqin had a lot to do with [Zhang’s transfer],” said the source, who declined to be named.