New York, November 28, 2016 – Chinese authorities should immediately release Liu Feiyue, the editor and founder of the human rights news website Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, known in China as Minsheng Guancha, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Liu’s arrest occurred amid increasing efforts by China to silence journalists and bloggers who cover protests and human rights abuses.
On November 24, Minsheng Guancha reported that police in Suizhou city in China’s central Hubei province told Liu’s family that Liu had been “criminally detained” and “might be sentenced” for “subversion of state power.” Minsheng Guancha also reported that Liu’s family had not yet received written notification of his detention from police. Liu has been detained since November 16.
As founder of the human rights news website, Liu has been a target of past police harassment and surveillance, and during politically sensitive national events, he has previously been detained or placed under house arrest, according to reports. Recently, Liu was held briefly in late October ahead of a gathering of the Chinese Communist Party congress.
“China’s frequent use of sweeping statutes such as ‘subversion of state power’ is evidence of its growing intolerance of reporting on political protests and human rights abuses,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney. “The authorities should release Liu Feiyue immediately and unconditionally.”
Subversion charges are frequently used by the Chinese government to silence journalists and dissenting writers. “Subversion of state power” carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Founded in 2006, Minsheng Guancha, whose stated mission is “focusing on the lives of the underclass,” reports on issues and stories that media outlets in China are often prohibited from covering, such as political protests, detentions of activists and writers, police abuse, and human rights violations. The website has been blocked in China since soon after its inception, according to writer Wu Yangwei, better known as Ye Du, a contributor to Minsheng Guancha and a friend of Liu’s.
The Chinese government has recently intensified prosecution of online journalists who report on human rights abuses and protests. In June, police detained Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu who cover protests on social media websites. In April, Wang Jing, a contributor to the human rights website 64tianwang was sentenced to nearly five years for “provoking trouble.” 64tianwang’s founder Huang Qi has been detained several times in the past few months and his home was ransacked by police in October.