Group chat admin detained without reason in China

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly criticises the arrest of a WeChat group chat moderator by police on September 6.Liu Pengfei, an administrator for a WeChat group chat sharing information from Huanqiu Shibao, an overseas registered Chinese website, was detained by police on the evening of September 6. According to several reports, approximately 30 non-uniformed police detained Liu and searched his apartment, confiscating five mobile phones, a computer and several documents. Authorities have not given any reason or a search warrant to his family.Liu is a double doctoral student from Beijing University and Tsing Hua University. He has previously worked for technology companies, and it is believed that he opened group chat, where people can access various articles via a VPN. Huanqiu Shibao is known for publishing many banned foreign media reports. More recently, Huanqiu Shibao has been posted unverified reports and information given by Guo Wengui, a Chinese fugitive currently in the US. Guo has released information about the Communist Party of China, taking aim at President Xi’s closest allies.According to friends, Liu is still in detention, but no media has reported on his case, and all news and information has been removed from Mainland social media platforms.The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has recently released four new regulations aimed at controlling and restricting free speech online. Since then, many citizens have been penalised for posting critical comments and opinions online.The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerning a WeChat group chat account holder is suddenly taken away by police without any reason after the Cyberspace Administration of China issued series of new regulations to restrain people’s right of speech in the internet.The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “The number of people detained by authorities in the past few weeks is illustrative of the government crackdown on free speech in the lead up to the National Congress. However, the Chinese authorities need to bear in mind that under Articles 35 and 37 of China’s Constitution, all citizens have the right to freedom of movement and speech.”We urge the Minister of Police to investigate each case of detention, and release those detained without reason. The Minister must also ensure that police work in accordance with the laws and do not abuse their powers to deprive people of their rights. 

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