Worst Jailers: China Tops the List With the Highest Number of Journalists Detained

April 11, 2020 Updated: April 21, 2020

At the beginning of the year when the CCP virus outbreak was at its highest in China, there had been several reports of Chinese citizen journalists who were detained for exposing the real situation of the pandemic in the epicenter of Wuhan.

However, such information would not come as a surprise for those who have been following the news. In fact, even before the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, created havoc at a global scale, China had been targeting journalists who did not self-censor while reporting.

In 2019, the Chinese communist regime was Asia’s leading jailer of journalists, with Vietnam, also a communist country, following behind. The former arrested 48 journalists and the latter had 12 people behind bars, according to the annual report by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The same report noted that at least 250 journalists are imprisoned globally.

Epoch Times Photo
An officer gestures in front of one of the roads blocked by the police to restrict people leaving Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on January 25, 2020, during a deadly virus outbreak which began in the city. (©Getty Images | Hector RETAMAL / AFP)

Arresting and Jailing Journalists

For years, the communist regime has been known for restricting freedom of speech. China was ranked 177th out of 180 countries on the 2019 Freedom of the Press survey by Reporters Without Borders.

Sophia Huang Xueqin, a freelance journalist who used to work for several Chinese media outlets and an activist in the #MeToo movement, was detained in October 2019. She had written on her blog about her experience of taking part in the Hong Kong protests. The 32-year-old was charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a common accusation used against those whom the regime views as a threat, the CPJ report stated.

“(Beijing) is fearful that the protests in Hong Kong could inspire challenges to the government in the mainland, and any expression of ideas of freedom and democracy is a threat to its grip on power,” said Wang Yaqiu, a researcher with Human Rights Watch and a friend of Sophia Huang, in a statement, CNN reported.

Sophia Huang, who intended to start law at the University of Hong Kong, was released in January 2020, according to media reports; however, the police continued to keep her passport, cell phone, and computer.

Epoch Times Photo
A protester marches with a placard during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal in Hong Kong on June 9, 2019. (©Getty Images | PHILIP FONG/AFP)

After the communist regime began expanding the re-education camps in Xinjiang Province, where large numbers of Uyghurs and other Muslims have been detained, some journalists were also jailed for the journalistic work that they had done years ago, the CPJ report said.

“Of the four affiliated with the state-owned Kashgar Publishing House, which issued books and periodicals on topics including politics and legal and demographic developments, two editors had retired at least a decade earlier,” CPJ said.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese riot police watch a Muslim ethnic Uyghur woman protest in Urumqi in China’s far west Xinjiang Province. (©Getty Images | PETER PARKS)

The regime has also arrested journalists in the past for writing for the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times. Ten Epoch Times journalists were arrested in Dec. 16, 2000, in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province, and some were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Epoch Times reported that one of them, Huang Kui, had possibly received a five-year sentence as he was covering international news, while others focused on China affairs, and in particular the communist regime’s persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual group. Huang Kui has since escaped China and now lives in the United States.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient mind-body spiritual discipline based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. The practice was banned in July 1999 by the Chinese regime after the number of people practicing it reached 70 million—more than the membership of the CCP—merely within five years of introduction to the public in China.

Epoch Times Photo
Falun Dafa practitioners’ group practice in Guangzhou, China, before July 20, 1999. (©The Epoch Times)

According to a 2014 CPJ report, two other freelance journalists who contributed to The Epoch Times were also arrested and sentenced.

Yang Tongyan, known by his pen name Yang Tianshui, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2006 on charges of “subverting state authority.” He had contributed to The Epoch Times and Boxun News, another U.S.-based website.

Another journalist, Qi Chonghuai, was sentenced to four years in 2008 on charges of “fraud and extortion.” Qi and his colleague, Ma Shiping, had criticized a local official in Shandong Province in an article published on The Epoch Times.

Tightening Controls

In addition to jailing journalists who have openly criticized the authoritarian regime, the CCP also issued a new code of ethics for reporters that laid out the rules that should be followed. The code was last updated in 2009.

The new code stated that journalists have to “serve the people wholeheartedly” and be loyal to “the Party, the motherland, and the people,” CNN reported.

According to the media outlet, the code also requires journalists to have “the correct mindset when covering issues relating to domestic affairs,” “show a good image” for news that is intended for the world, and “actively build a bridge between China and the outside world.”

The code, which was split into seven sections, also told reporters to “vividly interpret China’s path, theory, system and culture when telling stories of China, (the) Communist Party of China, socialism with Chinese characteristics and Chinese people in order to let the world better understand China,” including “guiding the public opinions on the internet” with new technology.