A leading human rights group is calling on the Chinese government to release dozens of detained journalists and bloggers ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Sunday.
According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), more journalists were imprisoned in China by the end of last year than any other country. Among them is Gao Yu, a 71-year-old reporter who has been repeatedly jailed for uncovering corruption in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
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The CCP has sought to diminish press freedom by enacting laws that prevent reporters from publishing "state secrets," for example.
Renee Xia, CHRD’s international director, said these regulations undermine Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to root out corruption in the Party.
"President Xi Jinping has drastically tightened the government’s grip on media," she said in a statement. "But Xi’s anti-graft campaign is bound to fail if journalists who dare to report on the inner workings of the government are put in prison and online commentators are criminalized."
CHRD said there are disturbing reports of Chinese journalists who have been tortured in prison:
Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮), a one-time bureau chief with the Fazhi Morning Post, has described being beaten unconscious in a Shandong prison and left believing he would die. Imprisoned in 2008, Qi is serving a 12-year sentence after writing about luxury government buildings. Wang Hanfei (王寒非), the former editor of the Hong Kong-based journal "China Special Report," was beaten in a Hunan prison and forced to make toy products by hand in 15-hour shifts every day for months. Blogger and online commentator Dong Rubin (董如彬), also known as Bian Min (边民), has said that he was interrogated for 70 to 80 days straight while chained to a chair, likely to force him to confess. Authorities have conducted no known investigations into these allegations, and no one has been held accountable.