After being detained for seven weeks, journalist Liu Hu was formally arrested on September 30. The arrest of Liu, a staff reporter at Guangzhou’s New Express (新快报) [zh] newspaper, becomes the latest under the Xi administration’s ongoing crackdown on Internet rumors. Bloomberg reports:
A Chinese journalist who posted allegations of corrupt dealings during the privatization of state-owned assets has been formally arrested on a defamation charge, his lawyer said.
The Beijing People’s Procuratorate approved Liu Hu’s arrest on Sept. 30, lawyer Zhou Ze said by phone today. Liu, who worked for the Guangzhou-based New Express, had been in detention since Aug. 24, according to Zhou.
[…] “I think they chose Sept. 30 to approve the arrest because everyone was on holiday, no one was paying attention,” Zhou said, referring to China’s National Day holiday, a seven-day break that began the next day. [Source]
Reuters reports on the muckraking that likely led to Liu’s arrest, and notes government unease amid simultaneous crackdowns on corruption and online rumors:
On July 29, Liu accused Ma Zhengqi, deputy director of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, of dereliction of duty during his time as party secretary of a local district in Chongqing. Liu had posted these allegations on his microblog.
[…]Wary of any threat to its authority or social stability, the party has also stepped up its already tight controls over social media to limit public discussion of sensitive political issues.
[…]Chinese President Xi Jinping has made fighting graft a top theme of his new administration, and has specifically targeted extravagance and waste, seeking to assuage anger over corruption and restore faith in the party.
[…]”Weeks after the government passed a new rule criminalizing ‘online rumours’, a well-known whistleblower is arrested for defaming officials — the message cannot be clearer, and it is likely to further silence Chinese netizens who are already quite worried,” said Maya Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The South China Morning Post notes that Liu’s Weibo account has been deleted, and contrasts his fate to that of journalist Luo Changping, whose corruption allegations against Liu Tienan led to the official’s recent expulsion from the party:
Liu’s Sina Weibo account has since been deactivated. Police had first confirmed his arrest in August, accusing him of fabricating and spreading rumours.
[…] The outcome of Liu’s call for an investigation is in stark contrast to the fate of another senior journalist, Luo Changping, who last year made similar public accusations against Liu Tienan, the deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission.
In August, Liu Tienan was sacked from his post, expelled from the Communist Party and placed under investigation. [Source]
In September, a judicial interpretation from the Supreme People’s Court sanctioned fines and prison time for those accused of spreading online rumors. Recent detentions of high-profile, or “Big V” microbloggers have been discouraging those with social media capital from voicing their opinions online.