By KIKI ZHAO JUNE 6, 2014 3:19 AM
A journalist based in Hong Kong who was arrested last week by the Chinese police is an American citizen, people close to the case said Friday.
On May 30, the police in Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong, arrested two men for “operating illegal publications,” according to a statement issued by the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau. The statement provided only the two men’s surnames, Wang and Guo.
According to three people with direct knowledge of the case, one of the detained journalists is Guo Zhongxiao, 38, who was born in Hubei Province and holds a Hong Kong permanent residence card. The other, they said, is Wang Jianmin, who was also born in China and is a permanent resident of Hong Kong. According to Mr. Wang’s lawyer, Chen Youxi, Mr. Wang is also a naturalized citizen of the United States, but entered China with his Hong Kong residence card rather than his United States passport.
Mr. Wang is the publisher of two Chinese-language magazines in Hong Kong, XinWei Monthly and Mask, both of which feature gossip about mainland Chinese leaders. The former British colony of Hong Kong retained considerable political liberties after its return to Chinese rule in 1997, and has become a base for publications about Chinese politics that are censored on the mainland. Mr. Guo is a journalist for the magazines.
In April 2012, XinWei Weekly published a report about a senior official with the State Security Bureau, China’s intelligence service, asserting that he had turned against the Chinese government and begun spying for an unnamed foreign country.
“We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was arrested in Shenzhen,’’ Justin Higgins, a United States Embassy spokesman in Beijing, said in a telephone interview. “Due to privacy concerns, we have no further comment.”
American citizens arrested in China must sign a privacy waiver in order to allow embassies and consulates to release information about their cases to the public.
By diplomatic agreement, the Chinese government is required to notify the United States within four days of an American citizen being arrested or detained. An exception is if a person entered China using another passport or form of identification, as do some people who have permanent residence in Hong Kong. The American embassies and consulates generally cannot provide consular protection to people who enter China using another document, according to the website of the United States Consulate in Hong Kong.
According to Mr. Chen, the lawyer, the police took Mr. Wang, along with his wife and father, from property they own in Shenzhen on May 30. Mr. Wang’s wife and father were released the next day on bail. Later on May 30, the police arrested Mr. Guo at his property in Shenzhen. It is unclear whether Mr. Guo still holds a Chinese passport.
Mr. Chen said he met with Mr. Wang on Thursday, and that Mr. Guo met with his lawyer as well.
Both men had previously worked for Yazhou Zhoukan, a popular Chinese-language news magazine in Hong Kong, according to Ji Shuoming, who had been their colleague there.
Mr. Wang, a graduate of Xiamen University, worked briefly for the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, a central Chinese government department, before going to the United States, where he earned a master’s degree in journalism. He joined Yazhou Zhoukan in the mid-1990s. Mr. Guo worked in Shenzhen before going to Yazhou Zhoukan in 2004.
Although the Shenzhen police have said only that the men were arrested for “operating illegal publications,” Mr. Ji said they might have been taken into custody because Mr. Wang tried to mail one or both of the politically sensitive magazines to readers in the Chinese mainland.
Late last year, the Hong Kong publisher Yiu Mantin was arrested while visiting Shenzhen and charged with smuggling industrial chemicals in 2010. But family members said his real offense was probably publishing political exposés that offended Chinese leaders. He had been about to issue a book by a dissident Chinese writer, Yu Jie, about China’s president titled “Godfather of China: Xi Jinping.” In May, Mr. Yiu was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Chinese court on the smuggling charge.
Michael Forsythe contributed reporting.