China: Two journalists sentenced

English PEN is seriously concerned by the conviction of freelance journalists Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie, who were convicted and sentenced to four and two years in prison respectively on 13 May 2008 for blackmail and extortion.

According to our information, Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie were arrested on 25 June 2007 in the city of Jinan, in the eastern province of Shandong, following the publication of an article alleging corruption in the Tengzhou Communist Party, which was published in June 2007 on the Xinhuanet website. They were both charged with blackmail on 2 August 2007 for allegedly accepting bribes from local officials whilst researching the article. A photographer, Ma Shiping, was also detained for publishing photos in the article. Qi Chonghuai was held incommunicado for the first two months of his detention, and claims to have been repeatedly assaulted and threatened by security guards throughout his eleven-month pre-trial detention. The case was turned back to the police for further investigation by the prosecution in February 2008 for lack of evidence. The trial on 13 May at the People’s Court of Tengzhou City, Shandong Province, reportedly did not comply with international standards of fairness. Both men are being held at the Tengzhou City Detention Centre, Shandong Province.

Qi Chonghuai, aged 43, had been a journalist for 13 years before his arrest. From 2004-6, Qi worked for various publications, including the Shangdong Zhoukan (Shandon Weekly), the Renmin Gong’an Bao (People’s Public Security News), and the Zhongguo Anquan Shengchan Bao. In June 2006, he started work as director of the newspaper Fazhi Zaobao (Legal System Morning News), which ceased publishing in December 2006 and was reformed with its existing staff as the Fazhi Ribao (Weekend edition of the Legal System Daily). He has also worked as special correspondent with the Fazhi Zhoubao (Legality Weekly) and the Jizhe Guancha (Journalist Observer). Qi is known for his reporting on corruption and social injustice in Shangdong province both in the Chinese and overseas media, and is said to have been repeatedly warned by the authorities to cease such reporting prior to his arrest.

He Yanjie, aged 40, is a freelance reporter and was working as Qi’s research assistant in the investigation of local corruption and injustice prior to his arrest. With Qi, he co-authored a number of reports in various newspapers and online media outlets. He formerly worked for the Shandong Gongren Bao (Shandong Workers Daily) and the Zhongguo Yancao Bao (China Tobacco Post).

PEN sources suggest that the charges for which the two men are being held may be fabricated, leading to concerns that the journalists have been targeted for their critical reporting on official corruption. We fear that Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie may be held solely for peacefully exercising their right to free expression which is protected under Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution and Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China is a signatory.  We therefore seek further information about the charges against the two men, and call for their immediate and unconditional release pending a review of their case.

Please send appeals:

• Expressing serious concerns that Qi Chonghuai and He Yanjie may be sentenced for their critical writings on corruption, and seeking further information about the basis for the charges against them;
• Expressing alarm at reports that they did not receive a fair trial, and calling for their immediate and unconditional release pending a full review of their case;
• Calling for a full and transparent investigation into the reported assaults on Qi Chonghuai whilst in detention so that those responsible may be brought to justice.

Government addresses:

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
Her Excellency Ms. Wu Aiying
Minister of Justice
10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie
Beijing-shi 100020
Procurator General Mr. Cao Jianming 
Supreme People’s Procuratorate
Beiheyan Street 147
100726 Beijing

Please note that fax numbers are no longer available for the Chinese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for China in your country to forward your appeals.

Her Excellency Mrs. Fu Ying
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
49 – 51 Portland Place
London W1B 1JL


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