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CHINA: Journalist Yang Xiaoqing detained; health concerns

(May 10, 2006)The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is seriously concerned about the continuing detention of journalist Yang Xiaoqing, who has been held since 22 January 2006. Yang faces charges of extortion and blackmail, but it is widely believed that his arrest is connected to his reporting on official corruption. Yang is being held without access to family visits, and there are serious concerns for his health.

Yang Xiaoqing, a reporter with the Zhongguo Chanjing Xinwenbao (China Industrial Economy News), was arrested by the Public Security Bureau of Longhui County, Hunan Province, on 22 January 2006 after investigating and reporting the alleged corruption of Longhui County officials. He is accused of posting defamatory articles on the Internet after failing to extort up to 800,000 Yuan (US$100,000) from Longhui County officials. The People's Procuratorate of Longhui County turned the case back to the police for further investigation in March 2006 due to lack of evidence.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) gives the following account of the circumstances surrounding Yang's arrest and detention:

'Yang's wife, Gong Jie, told CPJ that he was under threat for months before his arrest in January, and had gone into hiding after his reporting angered a local Communist Party secretary. Yang, 36, a reporter for China Industrial Economy News, has been formally arrested on suspicion of extortion and blackmail. But Gong believes her husband's arrest is connected to two articles he wrote in May 2005 alleging corruption in the sale of a state-owned company by local Longhui county officials to private individuals. In September, his wife said, Yang began to feel that his life was in danger and went into hiding. In late December, according to online writer Li Xinde, police issued a notice offering a reward for information on Yang's whereabouts. Police accused him of posting defamatory articles on an "illegal Web site" after he failed to extort up to 800,000 Yuan (US$100,000) from Longhui county officials.

Yang was seized at a friend's house in Hunan Province on January 22, said his wife, who has not been permitted to see him since his arrest. Yang's colleagues have spoken publicly in his support, and fear that criminal charges have been used to punish him for his work.'

Yang's wife Gong Jie, who is also a journalist, has launched an appeal for her husband's release at http://www.gongjie520.sohu.blog.com .

Yang Xiaoqing is held at the Longhui County Detention Centre, Hunan Province. He is said to have been diagnosed with Hepatitis B since his detention. His trial is scheduled to start on 10 May 2006. (boxun.com)

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