Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has grave concerns about China’s unlawful detention of a
journalist who exposed alleged government wrongdoing around the construction of
a dam more than 50 years ago.
Xie Chaoping, 55, formerly with the Procuratorial Daily, a newspaper under
direct control of the Procurator of the People’s Republic of China, was detained on August 19 by security
officers of Weinan, Shaanxi, accused of illegal publication of a
book for commercial sale. His detention has only recently come to public
In the book, The Great Migration, Xie spent three years interviewing victims of
Sanmenxia Dam, chronicling the farmers’ trust of the then Weinan government,
which persuaded them to leave their homelands to allow the Central Government
to build the dam in the 1950s. The book alleges the local government cheated
the farmers, depriving them of land and compensation allocated to them by the
An IFJ source said Xie wrote an
in-depth article about the dam in 2006 when he was working at Procuratorial
Daily, but the newspaper censored the story. Xie left the paper in protest
and to further his investigation.
After he finished the book, Xie
contacted three publishers but none would go to print, with two citing pressure
from the relevant department of the Weinan government, while another requesting
the deletion of all names of alleged wrongdoers from the book, which Xie
In May 2010, Sparkle, a Beijing-based cultural magazine, agreed to publish the
book, on the condition that Xie bear the cost. Xie provided CYN 50,000 (about
USD 6,500) to the publisher and signed a memorandum promising that the book was
not intended for commercial sale.
On June 26, copies of the book were confiscated
by the Weinan government’s cultural department. The Weinan security bureau then
searched the houses of interviewees named in the book, and removed at least 8000
copies from an interviewee’s home in the early hours of June 27, reasoning that
the book leaked a state secret.
Four Weinan security officers and three
Beijing security officers took Xie away from his apartment in Beijing on August
19 with the explanation he might have been involved in an illegal commercial
Xie’s lawyer, Zhou Ze, said Weinan security
officers abused their power by detaining Xie without reason and not following proper
criminal procedures. Xie’s family has been forbidden to visit him. Zhou has
visited Xie in his cell in an unknown location, and says their discussion was recorded.
Zhou said Xie used his own money to
print the books, which were not intended for sale.
The magazine has been suspended and the
publisher removed from his position. The publisher has admitted negligence in
not following the correct procedure, but it is unclear what the correct
“The IFJ reminds all levels of government
of comments made by Premier Wen Jiabao in a public speech on August 27, where
he stressed the valuable role of the media in reporting illegal activities and drawing
attention to improper behaviour by public officials,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
The IFJ urges China’s authorities to direct the Weinan
security bureau to release Xie immediately. It calls on the Cultural Department
General Administration of Press and Publication and Security of Bureau of China
to investigate the case promptly and transparently.
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