China: Investigative journalist detained

Police from China’s central Hubei province have detained investigative journalist Shangguan Yunkai for allegedly ‘selling counterfeit medicine’, with some claiming his arrest is related to his coverage of corruption allegations across the province. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the arrest of Yunkai and calls for his immediate release.

Image of investigative journalist Shangguan Yunkai, who was arrested on April 30 for 'selling counterfeit medicine', police allege. Credit: Twitter

On April 30, the 57-year-old reporter’s son, Shangguan Keke, posted a video on Twitter, claiming his father had been arrested by police in Ezhou City, and was still in detention. His arrest came days after the publication of a now-removed article on Yunkai’s Weibo blog, titled ‘Enzhou: The Intermediate People’s Court protects the shortcomings, the municipal party committee doesn’t care’. In the video, Keke explained that at the end of the article there was an advertisement for a skin cream imported from Taiwan that his father had planned to sell.

According to the US-funded outlet Radio Free Asia, local police approached Yunkai at a teahouse in Ezhou City on April 20, before arresting him in an apparent sting operation. Keke has not been able to contact his father in the detention centre, with centre reception informing him that his father was not allowed visits from him or any lawyers. Keke has also reported receiving threats after he filed a complaint with their local state prosecutor.

According to reports, Yunkai’s legal representation questioned the official reasoning behind the journalist’s detention, asserting that selling ointment is a common practice in China, and claiming that the charge that led to his arrest was a way for authorities to avoid more overtly political charges relating to his coverage. If Yunkai is found guilty, he could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.

Yunkai has 24,000 followers on his Weibo blog account, where he frequently posts articles criticising allegations of corruption among officials. According to official records from Chinese authorities, over 770,000 corruption complaints and 111,000 punishments for officials were registered in the first quarter of 2023, in the wake of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption since 2012.

The IFJ said: “Journalists should be allowed to report without fear of reprisal, especially when investigating allegations of corruption in government officials and authorities. The IFJ calls for Yunkai’s immediate release and for Chinese authorities to respect freedom of expression and the press.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on [email protected]

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

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